Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent

Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent (PDF)

2022 • 8 Pages • 69.49 KB • English
Posted July 01, 2022 • Submitted by Superman

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Summary of Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent

PATIENT & CAREGIVER EDUCATION Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent This information explains how to help your child after the death of a parent. Understanding Your Child’s Grief For all children, the death of a parent is devastating. No matter how old your child is, you may feel you need to protect them from the sadness and confusion you’re feeling. Like adults, children may need help understanding and adjusting to life after loss. Remember that how your child grieves will depend on their age, understanding of death, and how those around them are grieving. Grieving children Children express grief differently than adults. They may have short and intense bursts of emotion following the death of their parent. They may also have physical reactions, like pain and aches in their body or changes in their sleep schedule. Some children may express their grief through changes in their behavior. They may struggle with routine tasks or behave in ways they never have before. They may grieve in short periods with breaks in between. For example, your child may cry or seem sad one moment, then ask to go out and play the next. Other children may not show any signs of sadness or grief. Grieving teenagers While younger children may not fully understand death, teenagers will have a more mature understanding. Teenagers are in a stage of life where they’re forming their own identity, thoughts, and emotions. It’s common for them to have a wide range of emotions when their parent dies. Some may feel that their identity within the family has changed and may take on adult responsibilities. Teenagers may Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 1/8 need privacy as they grieve. Be sure to let them know they can talk to you for support. Helping Your Child Helping your child may be hard as you cope with your own grief. If you’re having trouble talking to your child, ask a family member, friend, social worker, psychologist, or religious or spiritual leaders to support and help you. Here are some ways you can help your child cope with their loss. Share your own thoughts and feelings It’s normal to want to avoid crying in front of your child, but expressing your emotions can show them healthy coping skills. Share your own feelings about losing your loved one. It can be helpful for your child to hear what you’re feeling and can help them express their own feelings. If your family follows a religion or spirituality practice, you may find it helpful to include your beliefs in the conversation. Be direct when talking about death Avoid using phrases like “passed” or “went away” when talking about death. This can be confusing for a child and will have them wondering if their parent will wake up or come back. Being honest and direct can help your child understand what has happened and learn healthy ways to cope. Some families use religion or spiritual practices to help a child understand that a parent is not physically here. If you find that helpful, ask a religious or spiritual leader for help. Honor their memory Having ways to honor your loved one’s memory can be healing for both you and your child. Revisiting family traditions or making new ones is one way you and your family can stay connected to your loved one. Different cultures and faiths have rituals to honor someone’s memory. Sometimes families create their own rituals like getting together for a special meal, planting a garden, visiting one of their favorite places, or celebrating their birthday. Whatever choices you make, remember that there’s no right or wrong way to honor a loved one’s memory. Try Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 2/8 to do what feels most comfortable for your family. Going to the Funeral The decision to have your child be part of a funeral or memorial service is up to you and your child. Giving your child the option to attend allows them to grieve with their family. If your child attends the funeral, make sure to let them know what to expect beforehand. You may also want to think of ways to include them in the ceremony. They can write a letter or draw a picture to put in the casket or make a collage of photos of their parent to display. At the funeral, be mindful about how your child is feeling and check in on them. You may find it helpful to arrange to have someone your child trusts to take breaks with them. If your child wants to leave the room, let them. Your child may have more questions about death after the funeral or memorial service. Resources for You and Your Family MSK resources No matter where you are in the world, there’s support available to you and your family. Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) offers a range of resources for grieving families and friends. You can learn more about these resources at Talking with Children About Cancer Program Talking with Children About Cancer is a program to help support adults receiving cancer treatment as they parent their children and teenagers. Our social workers offer family support groups, individual and group counseling, connections to resources, and guidance for professionals in the community including school social workers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, teachers, and school staff. To learn more visit, support/counseling/talking-with-children Bereavement Program 646-888-4889 MSK offers services through our Bereavement Program to help family and friends Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 3/8 who have lost a loved one. People who have lost someone close to them to cancer may find it helpful to talk with others who are also grieving. The Departments of Social Work and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences offer support groups and education programs for people who have lost someone to cancer. Services include short term individual counseling, resources for bereaved children, bereavement groups for adults, and links to community resources. To learn more, or to join a bereavement support group, call the Social Work Department at 646-888-4889. MSK Counseling Center 646-888-0200 Some bereaved families find counseling helpful. Our psychiatrists and psychologists lead a bereavement clinic that provides counseling and support to individuals, couples, and families who are grieving, as well as medications to help if you feel depressed. Spiritual Care 212-639-5982 Our chaplains are available to listen, help support family members, pray, contact community clergy or faith groups, or to simply be a comforting person and a spiritual presence. Anyone can request spiritual support, regardless of formal religious affiliation. Additional resources There are books, educational resources, and community support programs available for parents and children. For more information about these programs, call your social worker or visit support/counseling/talking-with-children/resources Helpful websites The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families The Dougy Center provides support to grieving children, teens, young adults, and families. They provide online resources and tools to help support and guide Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 4/8 families who are grieving. Gilda’s Club A place where men, women, and children living with cancer find social and emotional support through networking, workshops, lectures, and social activities. Helpful books Books for adults to help children and teens cope with grief Guiding Your Child Through Grief Author: James P. Emswiler The Grieving Child: A Parent’s Guide Author: Helen Fitzgerald Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Loved One: A Guide for Grown Ups Author: William C. Kroen How Do We Tell the Children? A Step-by-Step Guide for Helping Children Two to Teen Cope When Someone Dies Author: Dan Schaefer and Christine Lyons Preparing Your Children for Goodbye: A Guidebook for Dying Parents Author: Lori Hedderman Take My Hand: Guiding Your Child Through Grief Author: Sharon Marshall Talking about Death: A Dialogue between Parent and Child Author: Earl A. Grollman Books for children about death, dying, and grief Always by My Side For ages 4 to 8 Author: Susan Kerner Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 5/8 Everett Anderson’s Goodbye For ages 5 to 8 Author: Lucille Clifton Gentle Willow: A Story for Children about Dying For ages 4 to 8 Author: Joyce C. Mills The Fall of Freddie the Leaf For ages 4 and up Author: Leo Buscaglia The Goodbye Book For ages 3 to 6 Author: Todd Parr Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children For ages 5 and older Author: Bryan Mellonie The Memory Box: A Book about Grief For ages 4 to 9 Author: Joanna Rowland I Miss You: A First Look at Death For ages 4 to 8 Author: Pat Thomas and Leslie Harker The Next Place For ages 5 and older Author: Warren Hanson Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss For ages 6 to 9 Author: Michaelene Mundy Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile: A Story About Coping with the Loss of a Parent Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 6/8 For ages 5 to 8 Author: Julie Kaplow and Donna Pincus Saying Goodbye to Daddy For ages 4 and older Author: Judith Vigna Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss For ages 8 and older Author: Pat Schwiebert What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? For ages 5 to 10 Author: Trevor Romain When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death For ages 4 to 7 Author: Laurie Kransy Brown and Marc Brown Where Are You? A Child’s Book about Loss For ages 4 to 8 Author: Laura Olivieri Activity books for children about death, dying, and grief Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies For ages 5 to 8 Author: Janis Silverman When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief For ages 9 to 12 Author: Marge Heegaard Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 7/8 If you have any questions, contact a member of your healthcare team directly. If you're a patient at MSK and you need to reach a provider after 5:00 p.m., during the weekend, or on a holiday, call 212-639-2000. For more resources, visit to search our virtual library. Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent - Last updated on March 12, 2020 All rights owned and reserved by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Helping Your Child After the Death of a Parent 8/8