What to say instead…
No matter how long we work with grieving children and families, it never gets easier to know what to say when a death occurs. It’s human nature to fall back on the cliches and platitudes we’ve grown up hearing. If you’ve ever found yourself relying on automatic responses, you’re not alone. Most of the time, these sentiments come from good intentions and a desire to comfort. That said, here are some common ones that often miss the mark with grieving children and families, along with suggestions for what to say instead.
“You must be…”
Assuming how someone is feeling can be affirming (if you assume correctly), but more often it sets an expectation for their reactions that may or may not be true. If someone doesn’t feel the way you think they do, they might experience guilt or shame for not grieving the right way.
How is your grief today?
How is it affecting you lately?
Back to School With Grief
It’s August which means many families are preparing for the start of school. When families are also grieving, this transition can bring a mixture relief, dread, excitement, and trepidation.
Much like work for adults, children and teens spend a majority of their time at school and they take their grief with them. For some children and teens, returning to school is comforting. They find support in the structure, familiarity, connections with friends, and the opportunity to focus on something other than grief. For others though, it can be a challenging venture that brings additional stress, uncertainty, and worry. What to think through and how to help depends on a number of factors. How old is your child and what grade are they in? Who died in their life and what was their relationship? How did the person die? When did the loss occur? There’s no formula for how the answers to these questions affect someone’s grief, but they are important to consider as you sort through how to best support your child or teen in returning to school.
Summertime and grief
Summer is a season of mixed emotions for many families in grief. The end of school and after-school activities can be a relief for some, especially if they struggled with having enough energy and concentration for class and homework. Others will miss the structure and social time that school and sports provide. For adults, summer might mean a less demanding schedule, but could also add the stress of finding childcare or having enough financial resources for camps and trips.
Father’s Day and Grief
As it is with many holidays throughout the year, Father’s Day, often sparks a multitude of emotions, especially when you’re in the midst of grief. While we hear primarily from children who are grieving the death of a father or father-figure and fathers who have lost a child, the day can be equally treacherous for those with complex relationships to fathers and fatherhood. Just a simple trip to the store can be a challenge during the lead up to Father’s Day. Those in grief face the barrage of card aisles and advertisements for “Great gifts for Dads!” along with well-meaning questions from friends and others about their plans. Then there is the day itself, which can be overwhelming to consider. It can also prompt new, creative ways to acknowledge the day, including doing nothing at all!