Bereaved children faced with grief need ongoing attention and special care that is specific to their needs. A child’s understanding of grief will depend on a variety of things. Their age, family background, stage of development, personality, and any previous experience with death they might have had.
Adults often want to try and protect their children by not telling them what is going on. But children are more inclined to notice that something’s wrong and experience feelings of anxiety and confusion if things are not spoken about. Grief affects children in different ways than it does adults. You will find that most children prefer to know what’s happening.
In this article we will explore helpful ways to help children process through grief. We will also share some remembrance gift ideas that will help them as they return to school and their normal routines after suffering grief and loss.
There are a few different signs that a child is grieving, but one of the main ones is difficulty concentrating or being easily distracted. Sometimes children might not be able to focus on a specific activity. They can also have trouble solving problems or making decisions. They may appear lost in space or seem like they are struggling to focus.
Here are some signs you should watch out for that would indicate your child is struggling with concentration after grief.
It’s important to remember when dealing with children who are grieving that every child grieves differently, and all emotions and feelings are considered appropriate.
Anger is a common expression of grief, but it is also the most misunderstood. Crying and sadness are often the emotions that people expect to see, but anger also accompanies grief as well.
This can show up as frequent outbursts of emotion or tantrums in children. Children become angry for a lot of the same reasons that adults do. They feel frustrated and helpless with the enormous change that grief brings. Children have little if any control over the situation they are in, so that helpless feeling can come out as anger and frustration.
Thinking about anger as energy that needs to be released can help when dealing with children who are struggling to process big emotions. Recognizing anger in your child as a part of the grief process and directing them to appropriate outlets is key.
It is important to get children dealing with anger related grief involved in an activity. It can be physical exercise, art or music therapy, or even gardening can be helpful in releasing pent up emotions. Since children struggle to process and articulate challenging emotions, providing an outlet for them to channel those feelings has been proven to be helpful.
After experienced grief and loss children can become extra clingy. They are often fearful if they leave their family for any time that someone else might die.
This can show itself in a few different ways. They can struggle wanting to go to school or to activities they used to enjoy. They may cry or throw tantrums when it is time to leave, or they know separation is about to occur. They also might become more attention seeking, even asking for help with tasks they have previously mastered just to get your attention.
Infants and toddlers can also sense distress in their caregivers and feed off your energy. This can result in them crying more, being more irritable, and wanting to be held even if they aren’t aware of the loss.
Returning to routine and structure after loss can be difficult, especially for children. Death can disorganize our lives and what used to be a smooth sailing routine is now disrupted.
For children and adults, creating routine and structure is an important part in our ability to heal from loss. This could look like taking the time to reorganize your daily routine and establish a sense of predictability. It can help bring a sense of control and comfort to a situation where there is none.
Here are some helpful tips that can help get children and yourself back into your normal routines.
Just like for us, children can find it difficult to move forward with their routines after loss. It’s important to encourage them that it is ok to return to their normal routines and express happy and positive emotions. Sometimes if they are happy and going about their normal routine, they can feel like they are not honoring the person they lost and that meant so much to them. Encouraging them to participate in activities they used to find fun and enjoy is a great way to perpetuate them moving forward.
There are a variety of special and meaningful remembrance gift items that are great to give children, teens, or even young adults dealing with grief or loss. They can carry and have these items with them during the school day, which can help make them feel supported and comforted.
Cremation jewelry is a great remembrance item to gift a child. It is a keepsake that can hold a small amount of their loved one’s ashes. Most of the jewelry pieces are very subtle with where the ashes are stored. Most people will not know that they are holding some of the ashes.
Jewelry and keepsakes that have photos with the child and loved one who passed away engraved on them are special. It is something that represents a happy memory. The child can wear them while they are away at school. This can help them feel like their loved one is continually with them.
Photos are ways that we remember special moments. They also can communicate and speak to us and for us when we don’t have the right words.
Your fingerprint is the most unique and special thing about you. No two fingerprints are alike. Just like the people we love the most and share our lives with. Every relationship we have is unique.
Fingerprint jewelry captures your loved one’s unique fingerprint and brings an individual and personal touch. You can also feel the ridges of the print on the jewelry, which is unique and special.
Just like how your loved one was unique and special, ashes into jewelry combines a small amount of ashes with a gemstone like resin to create a one of kind piece of jewelry. Ashes into jewelry encapsulates your loved one’s ashes into the jewelry itself. That means every piece of jewelry is designed and fashioned by a local artist. Each piece is personal and a reflection of your loved one.
Ash infused jewelry comes in a variety of types, including necklaces, rings, and charm beads.
Some children can have a hard time transitioning back to school after the loss of a loved one. They can have trouble focusing or staying on task. A special stuffed animal can have a way of bringing them comfort and a sense of peace if they are having a difficult time.
A small memorial scrapbook is a great option for a child of any age. You can make a small photo sized scrapbook together with their favorite pictures and memories of their loved one. They can carry it in their backpack and pull it out when they need some comfort.
Gift baskets are a wonderful gift for grieving kids who have lost a family member and help provide them with thoughts of comfort. You might put together a condolence gift basket on your own. You can fill it with items you know the child will enjoy. It will brighten their day! Be sure to include a card or special poem. Here are some suggestions for condolence gifts:
A journal is a perfect gift for a child who is grieving. It allows them to write down their thoughts and feelings and functions as a therapeutic outlet. It is a great way for the child to connect to their inner self and release any feelings they might be holding on to.
When thinking about gifting an item to a grieving child, it’s important to consider them and what would be a unique and special item for them personally. Some things to consider are their age, lifestyle, and personality.
While most children can enjoy majority of gifts, there are some gifts that are suited for younger children and there are some that work better for older teens and college-aged kids.
The goal and intention of the gift is to offer comfort and support. The best sympathy gifts for children are those that show you care about their wellbeing and want to help them through this challenging time. It’s not just another present as if it was their birthday.
It’s important to understand and explain to the grieving child that it is ok to work through their difficult feelings and the gift is not a distraction from their feelings, but something to bring comfort to them as they process through the loss.
The way children respond to death is different from adults. They may go from crying to playing. That is completely normal. Playing is a way that children release their energy and cope with their feelings. How children are affected by grief varies and depends on their age. Here is a helpful guide on how grief affects children in each age group.
What Type of Gift is Good to Give a Child who has Lost a Loved One and is Now Getting Ready to Go Back to School?
Transitioning back to school can be a difficult time for a child who has lost a loved one. Giving them a gift that can help ease their transition can be helpful and comforting. Here are some helpful gift ideas for bereaved children who are going back to school. Grief Journal - A grief journal provides a therapeutic outlet for kids who appreciate that type of thing through easy question-and-answer prompts and other creative techniques. It is essentially the perfect gift.
Coloring Book and Pencils or Crayons - A coloring book can be a great gift for any child. Coloring books can help kids express their emotions. They can also improve their concentration and fine motor skills. Since coloring is generally a non-verbal activity, it is a great option for children who don’t have the language skills to talk about the feelings they are experiencing.
Memorial Keychains - Memorial keychains are a great item to add to their backpack or key chain for older kids. You can personalize them with a photo memory of the two of them.
Memorial Bookmarks - Memorial bookmarks are a perfect back to school gift for children. They can use them in their textbooks or required reading for school. These can be personalized to include a special saying that reminds them of that person or even their loved one’s fingerprint.
Bereavement gifts are a great way to connect with a child who is grieving. They provide an opportunity for them to talk about the loss and open them up to receiving input from you. The goal is not to give the child a toy or something to temporarily get their mind off their sadness. Rather, gift ideas with real meaning can go a long way in helping the child heal from their loss. These kinds of gifts are meant to bring comfort and a sense of peace to the child.
The quick answer is that there’s no right or wrong time for a child to go back to school after a loss. Some children may want to go back to school the very next day and see their friends, while others might want a week off. It will really depend on the child and how they are feeling. To help determine when they should go back to school, the best thing to do is to speak to them directly. Ask them if they would like to go back to school and see their friends or teachers. Pay attention to their reaction. You can explain that you have spoken to their teachers, and it is ok if they get upset. They could also have the option of coming home if it gets to be too overwhelming. It is often good for children to have the routine and normality of school, and it can be good for the adult to have some space to get organized.
For parents and caregivers, sending a grieving child or teen back to school can bring up a wide range of emotions. They want their children to feel safe, and they may worry about sending their child into a less sheltered and understanding environment. There are no easy answers, and it may be different for each child, but here are a few tips on how to help them transition back to school. Communicate with the school - Good communication with the child’s school is a very important aspect of a successful transition back to school. It is good for grieving children to know the adults at school are also there to offer support.
Acknowledge the grief - Supporting a grieving child or teen means acknowledging their grief. Do not pretend that nothing has happened or changed. A life-changing event has happened. Acknowledging that you know about the death is often one of the most important things you can do.
Adjust expectations - Students who are returning to school after death may struggle with schoolwork. They may have trouble concentrating, which may affect their quality of work. Be sure to communicate that these are very common in grief and to talk with your child or teen’s teachers about helping him or her most effectively.
Set Routines and Boundaries - Aside from academic matters, there might be behavioral changes. A student might act out or engage in behaviors that are harmful to them or disruptive to others. Even though expectations will most likely need to be adjusted in order to help a grieving student be successful, the rules still matter. A grieving child or teen still needs a sense of routines, limits, and boundaries, which help provide normalcy and a sense of safety when things feel chaotic.
Helping a child process and heal through grief is a challenging, but very rewarding experience. You don’t need to be too prescriptive when it comes to their grief. They need space to process their loss themselves. Usually, the best way is to just be there for them and listen.
October 17, 2022 by Frances Kay