As an adult, what is my helping role when a child or teen is grieving?

Thank you so much for caring about knowing how to effectively support a child or teen as they grieve.  Always begin with God. Pray as you prepare yourself before addressing the issues that a child may have. Provide a supportive and safe environment for them. If a child has come to speak to you about their loss, it means that they are comfortable with you. Begin by asking the child what he/she already knows. Give an honest and brief explanation and use direct language. Use the words “die and dead” appropriately. Do not use the words “gone away, asleep, lost, or passed away.” I usually will say, “Your daddy/mommy/grandmother died today. His/her body stopped working. He/she can no longer breathe, eat, feel hungry, or be cold. They have no pain.” Young children need brief, simple and repeated explanations. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same thing over and over. Repetition helps children understand better. If you do not know the answer to their questions, it is OK to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will find out for you.” Listen to and validate the child’s feelings and encourage the child or teen to talk about their loved one that has died. Invite dialogue about any questions or worries the child might have. Don’t be afraid as an adult to show emotion. If you mourn openly, it gives permission for the child or teen to grieve openly. Don’t try to rescue them from their hurt. Encourage them to talk about their pain which will keep them from shutting down. Continue to pray and follow up with the child or teen as needs arise.

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