As we navigate through life, all of us experience loss. These losses may include loss of income, jobs, in-person social activities, health, and so on. However, one of the most difficult losses many of us have experienced is the loss of a loved one or cherished pet.
As your child grows older, unfortunately, these conversations will come up. These conversations may involve the loss of a close friend, loved family member, cherished pet, and so on.
It is important to let our children know that it is normal and valid to experience feelings of grief when encountering a loss.
When talking about grief and loss with your child, it is important for you to be able to effectively navigate these conversations as needed. Thus, it can be helpful to have some ideas already up your sleeve before the time arises.
Here are some strategies to help you and your child navigate and normalize conversations about grief and loss:
- Ask your child about their relationship with the lost person or pet. It is important to let your child process their feelings and thoughts about their relationship with the lost person or pet. Create an open, nonjudgmental space where they can talk about the positive, negative, and neutral aspects of the lost relationship. This lets your child know that it is okay to have a mixture of emotions in response to loss.
- Follow this up by asking about important and/or positive memories they hold dear of times with the person or pet. Maybe your child loves remembering that time their dog swam with them in the ocean or a fun road trip they took with a grandparent. Tapping into these positive memories may help to boost their mood and hold onto the good times even while experiencing grief.
- Help your child establish rituals or create tokens to remember the special times they had with a lost person or pet. A significant loss is tough on anyone, but a great way to cope is to set aside time annually or as needed to remember the special times spent with a loved person or pet. You and your child can cook a favorite meal that was loved by a late grandparent. If you lost a cherished pet, you could create a scrapbook of pictures of fun times or schedule times each year to visit your pet’s favorite park. This lets your child know that it is okay to grieve and hold dear important reminders of someone special.