name='p:domain_verify'/> Always A New Day : How To Help Your Kids Understand Grief


How To Help Your Kids Understand Grief

Last week, we had a family movie night to watch Coco. I took my youngest to see the movie in the theater, and I definitely got more out of it than she did. In fact, I believe this movie is for more mature audiences as it deals with loss and all its emotions. My son hadn't seen it yet and thus, it became his choice for our movie that night.

Without giving too much away, the story is about a young boy who accidentally gets stuck in the land of the dead and meets many family members who have passed. These family members then help him return to his living family but not without mysteries solved and new revelations made. The music and the message are beautiful; the song "Remember Me" had me crying at the end of the movie. Of course, I was moved because of my connections to loss. What I wasn't expecting was my son - who is 9 - to have such an intense reaction after the movie ended.

When my brother died, I waited two weeks to tell my son. For many personal reasons and choices as a parent, and mainly because I needed guidance on how to do so without losing my mind in the process. I wanted to be present and calm because I knew he would react strongly and have many questions. The day I told him, he had woken up early and crawled in bed with me. I gently explained to him what had happened and that his uncle was no longer here.

He cried so hard after finding out this news. We stayed cuddled in bed for a while, and I just let him ask, cry, share, question. Anything he wanted. I had already decided this day would be about him so we took his little sister to school and had a special day together - doing anything he wanted.

And two years later, he has been doing well with the loss. Honestly, better than his mama. But, this movie was too much for him, and it was like the day he found out all over again. He embraced me on the couch when the movie ended and wept - he just felt the loss again. I was stunned into tears and simply cried with him. We went to bed with him still choking back tears until I could comfort him into sleep.

I don't have the right answers to how a child should grieve - if you need assistance in that, I highly recommend you speak with a counselor as I did. Her advice has helped shape me as a grieving mom support her grieving son. But, with my experience, I can offer advice on what has helped us in the last two years and what helped me this past week.

Let them see you grieve. 

Cry, share what you miss about your loved one. Talk about what grief can do for you on a normal day when you least expect it all to hit. But, also talk about how you have good days, and that those are the best ones. Celebrate those moments - celebrate them big.

Read children's books about grief.

They are so many available; so many that simply explain it way better than I could ever do. Check your local library - they have special sections dedicated to grief. You can also ask a school counselor for great recommendations - they are always a great resource.

Share things that your loved ones loved to do. Then go do them

In fact, on the anniversary of my dad's passing, we went to the library (because he loved books); we cooked (because he loved good food); and we made plans to go fishing soon (anything outdoors, and he was all in). Do the same things with your kids - while I am guilty of wallowing in the gross part of grief, it is important to show them the good parts (yes, there can be).

Gather with others.

Be with your family and share memories or JUST BE TOGETHER (that's my favorite). Involve their teachers - my son's teacher was amazing during the beginning of the loss. She was careful with him and kept me posted on how he was doing.

Honor your loved one.

Maybe do a balloon release on their birthdays or draw a picture for them (maybe send in that balloon or leave on their resting place). Or, create a keepsake box - put in anything that reminds you of that person or anything important items of theirs. We have a small stuffed dinosaur that my brother named Taco - he's always close by.


These are just a few ways to help your little ones understand loss - especially when we don't understand it one bit. Expect the unexpected, too - I carelessly thought he was okay as it had been a year or so since I saw him cry about my brother. I never expected this movie to impact him - and me - in such a heavy, yet profound way. Also, make sure to arm yourself with support, with great resources, with creative ideas, and with all the hugs and shoulders to cry on. 

And, know this, too - they will be the biggest reason you have better days in your grief. Though this unexpected moment took my breath away, that big 9 year old in my arms gave me the greatest comfort. I made sure he knew that as well - he helps me every single day. He makes ME stronger.

The best - and last - tip I can give is just that - remember everyday they are your biggest reasons to fight through that tricky grief. Love them and let them love you so big, too. 

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