What Grieving Children Want Adults to Know

 As parents in a grieving family, we worry that we won't do or say the right thing to help our children to grieve in healthy ways and to heal.  Here are just a few things that mourning children would like for the adults around them to know:

  • I want you to be there for me, but I don’t want you to hover or tell me how to grieve.
  • If you think I might want to talk, encourage me but don’t be pushy. I want to be able to ask questions and talk about the loss, but only when I want to.
  • Just because I’m not grieving in front of you doesn’t mean I’m not grieving or something is wrong with me. Sometimes I’m just not comfortable sharing with you. Sometimes it’s easier to talk with someone outside the family. And many times I feel more comfortable expressing my feelings to people my age.
  • Don’t take for granted that you know what I’m feeling. Let me explain my feelings and my grief experience to you.
  • It’s not your fault that you can’t make me feel better or protect me from the pain of grief. I need to go through my grief.   Just be there for me.
  • Do things for me because you care not because you feel guilty or sorry for me.
  • Don’t lie or hide the truth from me. If ever I needed to trust in you, it’s now.
  • Don’t be surprised that I don’t like changes or the unexpected. I’ve gone through too many changes already.
  • If I’m having a bad day, give me some slack. And when I react negatively to you, it’s not against you personally. It’s the grief.
  • I don’t expect that you will have all the answers to all my questions. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Don’t be surprised when I grieve differently from you and others in the family. My grief in my own unique experience.
  • Give me real answers and don’t say things that you think will make me feel better like “It’ll be all right,” “You’ll get over it,” or “I know what you’re going through.”
  • Don’t get worried if I don’t seem to feel anything. Sometimes I don’t and other times I am trying to determine exactly all the feelings I do have.
  • Understand when I just need to be by myself.
  • Understand when I’m angry that I may just be angry at the situation, not you.
  • Understand that when I complain of physical problems that it may not be all “in my head” or “just to get attention.”
  • Understand when I’m fearful that I worry what will happen next or who I might lost next.
  • Don’t tell me that I shouldn’t feel a certain way even if it doesn’t make any sense at all to you. I have a right to my feelings.
  • Listen to me when I talk and understand when I don’t want to.
  • Don’t try to put on a brave front just for me. I can usually tell when you’re faking. I know you are scared and grieving too.
  • Allow me to comfort you when you grieve. Understand I worry about you too.
  • Encouraging words and hugs are appreciated although I might not show it.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Christianbook.com.

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunica Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.

Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX  http://grief-works.org.