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Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss

A Guide for Brisbane Parents

When a loved one dies, it sends painful shockwaves through a family. As parents, our first instincts are usually to comfort our grieving spouse and relatives. However, in the midst of heartbreak, it can be easy to overlook the grief of our children. This articles provides an overview for what you can do in helping children cope with grief. It is important to mote that children grieve too, but often in different ways than adults. If supporting them through loss isn’t handled well, it can disrupt their development, education, relationships, and overall wellbeing.

As a Brisbane parent, learning about how children grieve differently and providing compassionate support can deeply help comfort your kids during the difficult experience of bereavement. Through open communication, patience, and accessing local counselling services, parents hold the power to profoundly heal and help our children, even while we ourselves are steeped in mourning. 

How Children’s Grief Differs from Adults

After a death, children usually enter into a lament less outwardly but equally as deep as adult grievers. However, kids express their sadness differently across all ages and stages:

  • Preschoolers may show distress through play by repeatedly discussing death, asking questions about what happens after someone dies, or drawing disturbing images. They also may regress in behavior, become afraid of the dark or nightmares, or worry about their parents dying.
  • School age children can better grasp that death is final. They may complain of stomachaches, headaches, or fatigue as they internally process the enormity of loss. Or their mourning may manifest as behavior issues or declining academic performance.
  • Pre-teens may deny their sadness as they try conforming to peer group norms. But depression, anger issues, self-injury and avoidance coping behaviors often percolate under their mask of resilience.
  • Teenagers fully understand grief, often experiencing pangs of loss similarly to adults. They can grow isolated from parents and friends as they navigate intense sadness, guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness in the wake of tragedy.

Why Grief Looks Different in Kids

Unlike most adults, children lack the life experience and emotional skills essential for coping with loss in a healthy way. 
Simply put, grief and crisis can overwhelm them. The ability to mourn sorrow while simultaneously accepting life’s permanence lies beyond most youngsters’ developmental capacity. Tragedy also ruptures kids’ core sense of safety and wellbeing in the world. By creating space for children’– no matter how chaotic or unskilled – expressions around death, parents help facilitate healing.
Research suggests that bereaved youth are significantly more at-risk for long-term behavioral, emotional, psychosocial and academic troubles compared to non-grieving peers. Unresolved childhood grief often underlies adult health problems like depression, complex PTSD and addiction.

But compassionate parental support makes all the difference. Children surrounded by patient, attuned caregivers who help them walk through anguish have better bereavement outcomes across all ages. Their grief may never disappear entirely, but it need not destroy their future wellness or ability to form trusting relationships.

helping children cope with grief

What Brisbane Parents Can Do

As a parent, you can profoundly help your child bear the heaviest burden grief imposes. By allowing them to feel safe enough to mourn losses openly, children become empowered to integrate experiences in healthy ways, for life. Though cultural values emphasize strength and stoicism – especially for boys – suppression isn’t the answer. Creating space for grieving, no matter how messy or lengthy, does society-wide good by producing balanced, resilient adults less vulnerable to unreconciled sorrows. If everyone felt safe to grieve losses fully, this would radically prevent countless adult dysfunctions down the line.
Here’s how you can help children grieve while preventing more serious issues from taking root:
Keep Communication Open
  • Gently ask open questions about what thoughts or feelings they have about the death
  • Reassure them that whatever emotions they experience are 100% normal
  • Don’t worry about always having the “right” answer; just listening helps them feel understood
Help Them Memorialize
  • Have children participate in funeral or memorial planning in age-appropriate ways if they wish
  • Together at home make a memory book, box or album to honor the deceased
  • Let older kids write letters to the deceased expressing what they wished they could have said
Expect Behavior Changes
  • Regressive habits usually pass; avoid punishing unless actions place safety at risk
  • Acknowledge anger, reinforce healthier outlets for frustration
  • Set reasonable goals for chores and school until concentration return.

Encourage Expression

  • Provide creative outlets like writing, music, theater for airing feelings
  • Let younger kids role play or draw pictures about the death
  • Share age-appropriate books for better understanding their experience

Know When to Seek Help

If caring consistency alone cannot relieve your child’s bereavement distress, specialized local support is available, including:

Remember You’re Not Alone

Losing someone we love badly hurts, no matter one’s age. As parents holding families together through devastating loss, it’s vital also prioritizing self-care. Beyond rallying local family or friends as grief support, many Brisbane bereavement resources exist for parents too, including:
Good Grief. This Queensland collective for bereaved parents offers counseling, support groups and memorial events Australia-wide for families navigating child loss.
GriefLine. At 1300 845 745, compassionate specialists give support for navigating any significant loss.
Healing from grief means a winding, deeply personal path full of ups and downs rather than a defined destination. By weathering the changes together, families grow resilient enough to integrate loss into their story without being defined by eternal sorrow. Prioritizing children’s often overlooked emotional worlds when crisis hits directly influences their lifelong wellbeing, relationships and purpose. You bravely hold more power than you know – not just to help them survive grief today, but to thrive despite it indefinitely.
If you as a parent are struggling deeply to support your grieving child at this difficult time, speaking to a professional grief and loss counsellor can help provide extra support. Specialist counsellors have extensive experience helping both children and parents manage the complex emotions that arise after losing a loved one. Counselling provides a safe dedicated space to explore feelings openly and find constructive coping strategies tailored to your family’s needs.

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