Yes, Children Grieve Losses from the Pandemic, Too
Most people feel a sense of loss for their old life since the pandemic. Dealing with the uncertainty, financial and health fears, limitations of seeing friends and family members and in some cases the death of our loved ones has caused a global grieving. As we grieve, we find comfort in our friends and others going through this crisis. But, what about kids? Parents explain to them that they will not be attending summer camps, the community pool or seeing their school friends without a mask. We explain that they cannot visit grandma and grandpa and many children witness the passing of their grandparents. It’s easy to become so overwhelmed with our own grief that we lose sight of our children’s grief.
Many children are too young to fully understand the effects or severity of the virus, but they are aware of what they can no longer do or visit and just like adults they feel sad and grieve the loss. Children’s grief looks different than adult’s grief, and it may come across as anger, tantrums, melt downs at bedtime, or regressive behaviors. Children won’t tell you they need help dealing with their grief and that makes it more important for parents to address the issues and label them for their child.
If you have a child that is acting out more aggressively or shows signs of being sad it’s important that you sit with them and listen. These suggestions can help you comfort your child.
Give them permission to grieve in their own way. Kids grieve different than adults. Many parents have never seen their child suffer losses like what the Pandemic has brought, and seeing your kids suffer is difficult. You want to jump in and rescue them, but don’t. Allow them space to be sad one minute and running around the next as if nothing happened. Be there as a loving support but let them work through it in their own way.
Answer their questions as honestly as you can. Your child may not understand fully why they can’t go to summer camp, swim in the community park, or play with friends the way they used to. Being able to sit down with them and explain honestly the reasons and reassuring them that they’ll get through this is reassuring for your child. If your child loses a grandparent, family friend, or family pet during Covid-19, they may ask the same question several times. Be patient, they are trying to understand it and work through their loss and sadness.
Ask your child questions and validate their feelings. When parents ask their child questions about how they feel it helps your child process what they’re feeling. It also helps name uncomfortable feelings. When parents say, “I was thinking of how sad I felt when your favorite birthday party was canceled; I had a tummy ache,” it helps the child understand that their stomach upset was from feeling sad or worried. If your child experienced a death or severe loss, they may not grieve it for weeks after the event. Give them your patience.
Separate your grief from your child’s. If you’ve lost an elderly family member or friend, it’s important that you remember your child is sensitive to the way you feel. If they see you crying, they feel your pain and want to help. Explaining to them that you are sad and missing your loved one, is helpful and comforts your child if you reassure them that you are okay and still able to take care of them. Your child will miss your family member or friend differently than you. You want to encourage them to grieve the loss in their own way.
Strength and resilience is the light at the end of the tunnel. Overnight our children have watched us cope with loss and deal with uncertainty and change since the pandemic began. Remind your children that loss is part of life. Grieving the loss that makes us aware and grateful for the gifts these people and activities brought to our lives is the process that matters most.
Loss is part of life and unavoidable. When parents model healthy coping with loss and letting go their children learn an invaluable lesson that will help them through the difficult times in life.