Good grief: Healthy ways to help a child mourn their sibling
Few things are as powerful as the bond between brothers and sisters. The connection can often seem unbreakable, until tested by tragedy. Without a doubt, when a child loses a sibling, it can prove a very difficult journey. But with love and support, a child can weather this journey in time.
A guiding presence ensures they process and mourn in a healthy way. While each child’s needs are unique, all parents and guardians can keep these tips in mind when discussing the loss of their sibling.
- Be honest and open. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about their sibling’s death. Give them age-appropriate information to help them understand. Even if they’re not ready for discussion, it’s important they know they can reach out.
- Remember, children and adolescents grieve differently than adults. Children and adolescents tend to grieve in spurts—one minute they are happy and playing, and, the next, they are crying. Although this can be confusing, this is normal.
- Reassure them—Don’t let them harbor guilt. Many children believe they caused their brother or sister to die because of bad thoughts they might have had, or because of mean things they may have said. Help relieve them of this weight. Remind that it is not their fault.
- Talk about the child who has died. Share memories. While you should never force it, encourage your child to celebrate their loved one’s life, not focus on their death.
- Help them express their grief. If your child is not talking about their feelings, try other things such as coloring, playing a game, etc. Children don’t always know how to use their words, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hurting. Healthy activities can channel emotions.
- Just be there. Losing a sibling is a heartbreaking circumstance. It can be difficult to overcome, especially at a young age, so try to walk alongside them. Provide comfort, validation, and involvement every step of the way.
If you have questions on how to support a child through a difficult time, please reach out to the Crossroads Hospice in your area, by completing our Contact Us form or calling us at 888-564-3405. We’re here to help day and night.
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