Dealing with loss and grief is something all people at some stage have gone through. Have you ever wondered what the impact loss or death has on our children?
Lindi Tshabangu, host of Word of Mouth, connects with Melini Moses, who together with her husband, lead a church in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is an award winning Reporter and News Editor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Her past few years as a Pastor’s wife and the mother of two precious PK’s (Pastor’s kids) has been both a great challenge and an amazing blessing. Most of all, its opened her eyes to what Pastor’s families have to sacrifice every single day, the limitless love they need to have for others and the constant pressure they face trying to balance family life, church demands and for many, full time jobs.
Here are ten practical steps you can take to help your children through their grief :
- Encourage conversation about their loved one who has passed. Let them share with you their favourite memories, from a trip to the beach to a chocolate waffles.
- Children need concrete ways in which to express their emotions. Help them plant a memorial garden or write messages on stones that can be placed in a pot in the garden.
- Acknowledge their moments of grief. Hold them and say “It’s OK baby, we all miss Pa.” Stay in the moment. Encourage them, letting them know they are loved. Answer their questions as best as you can. Stay age appropriate. Remember, it’s OK for them to see you crying. It makes them feel safe, knowing you are all experiencing this together. However, if you notice that it’s affecting them, find a space away from them if you need some time alone to grieve.
- Stick to a routine. Children find great comfort in routine and structure. Try to stick to the routine they are used to as much as possible. From breakfast to bedtime, they will feel more in control of themselves, when they know what to expect.
- Create a space, inside or outside your home, where your children can go if they want to talk to their loved one. You could have some pictures there, and an item that reminds them of the person eg. a toy, or a pack of cards.
- Help them to make a scrap book or a memory box for their loved one. Print out pictures and give them stickers to personalise it.
- Allow them to wear an item of their loved ones clothing. A pair of socks, or a T-shirt, may help them feel closer to them. A memory teddy bear would also be amazing.
- If your child is little, buy him or her a bottle of bubbles. Allow them to blow bubbles into the sky to let their loved ones know that they are thinking of them.
- Keep a close eye on your child’s behaviour. Are they more anxious? Are they clock-watching? Are they biting their nails? Are they clingy or agitated? Are they having difficulty sleeping? Are they constantly worried about where you are and if you are OK? Are they concentrating at school? If you notice any changes, please speak to a professional so you can put further steps in place to assist them.
- Take care of Yourself. You may find yourself plunging into work or battling to keep your life together. Grief is complicated. It’s life-altering and each one of us deals with it so differently. If you need to see a counsellor, please do so. The more emotionally healthy you are, the safer your children will feel.
As parents, we can’t protect our children from the pain of loss, but we can help them get through it. By encouraging them to express their feelings in a healthy way, we can help them develop valuable coping skills, which will be beneficial to them both now and in the future.
Children and Grief – Melini Moses in conversation with Lindi Tshabangu – www.ebizradio.com