Plans and Advice for Counseling Children Through Grief

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Mom lending a shoulder to cry on.

When someone close dies, counseling children through grief is important. Providing support and guidance through this difficult time will not only help them mourn the person who has died but also give them the strength to handle future life challenges.

What to Do When Counseling Children Through Grief

Before helping your children grieve the loss of a loved one, it may be useful to learn how grief counselors generally help their clients through bereavement.

Identify Feelings

One of the first things that counselors do is help people identify the problems they are experiencing. Since death is the issue your children are having difficulty with, a counselor will help them identify their feelings about it. By bringing feelings to the forefront, a counselor can start to work through them to help ease the intensity.

Many times, children don't talk about their feelings because they don't like how it affects them; however, then it bottles up, causing behavior problems in the future. It may be useful to have your children do something while talking (such as coloring, drawing, playing with toys). A small amount of distraction helps children discuss what they are thinking without feeling pressured.

Work on a Plan

Identifying your children's feelings sets them up for figuring out a plan to help them experience the feelings and then let them go. A plan may be doing activities that help bring the feelings out in a constructive way or simply talking about them. The following are some things you can include in a plan for your children:

  • Write a letter to the deceased.
  • Write a poem or in a journal.
  • Create a memorial box.
  • Buy balloons and release one at a time while talking about thoughts and feelings about the loved one.
  • Make a scrapbook of the good times.
  • Read children's books on bereavement.

These activities allow children to take their feelings and thoughts out of their mind and release them, which can be difficult. Be sure to let them know what they are going through is normal and expected. Being a constant backboard to whatever your children are experiencing will encourage them to work through their grief.

Always Be Supportive

Just because your children seem to be doing better doesn't mean you can proceed as if nothing has happened. While you don't have to continue bringing it up, it is important to be available and open to communicate whenever your children want to. If you sense something is bothering them, sit down and discuss what each of them is thinking.

Follow Your Children's Lead

Like adults, each child experiences grief differently. Some will feel better in a few days while others may take a month or more. It's important not to rush children through grief. They need to experience it, feel it, so they are able to come to terms with it. You will sense when your children are ready to move on and as long as you are there for support, they will get to that point.

Caring for Yourself First

If you are a parent of a child, who is dealing with grief, it may be difficult for you to help him/her because you are trying to manage your own sorrow. Before you can effectively help your children, you must have a handle on how you are feeling.

Seeking Grief Counseling Services

Counseling children through grief may not be possible for you if you are not emotionally ready for it. Seeking grief counseling services is an excellent way to help yourself as well as your children. You can either see a counselor individually or together as a family depending on what you feel most comfortable with. To find grief counseling services in your area, visit the Foundation for Grieving Children.

Plans and Advice for Counseling Children Through Grief