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Children and Loss

08/26/2013 11:09PM ● Published by Anonymous

Children and Loss

By Kristine Weires, LCSW-PIP

Loss is difficult for all of us at any age. Children are unique in that they must deal with the loss while not yet capable of fully understanding the meaning. Loss comes in many forms for children, not just death. It can be losing a best friend who moves away, moving to another home, even the loss of a favorite stuffed animal who gets left on the street outside the Children’s Museum in Brookings (luckily, this loss was averted by a quick U-turn on I-25 to retrieve the stuffed bear). 

The loss of a pet is usually tough on the whole family, not just the child. Again, it’s not always as a result of death. Pets leave families for other reasons such as apartment restrictions or allergies that develop for the child or another member of the family. So, how do you talk to your child about loss?

 

  • It’s important to remember the old saying, “Honesty is the best policy.” Lying to them and saying the pet “ran away” rather than died or “got run over” rather than went to live with someone else only delays the life lessons the child needs to learn about loss.
  • See this as an opportunity to talk openly about feelings involved in loss such as sadness, anger, fear, and uncertainty. These feelings need to be expressed or they may come out in other ways later, most likely behaviorally through tantrums or depression.
  • Check in with yourself about any loss in your life that is unresolved. This can keep you from being fully able to assist your child in dealing with loss if you avoid it due to past experiences.
  • Give messages to your child that offer understanding and comfort. Be ready for tough questions about death, etc. Allow these questions and answer them honestly.

Yes, your child will go through some emotional pain. Remember though, in the long run, you are providing a valuable lesson in how to manage tough times and tough feelings. As always, if the child’s emotional distress becomes worrisome, seek professional guidance.

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