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How can I support children who are grieving the death of a parent?

(12 Posts)
ecat Wed 06-Mar-13 11:28:41

I am really hoping that I will be able to get some advice and guidance of how I can support some very special children (ages from 7 up to 12). Their father died very suddenly a few months ago and they are obviously in the midst of their grief.
I really feel at a loss about what I can do. If anyone has experience of supporting children during this time I would love to hear from you.

mummywithnosleep Wed 06-Mar-13 11:40:18

I'm not really sure I should post this as I am not qualified to give any advice

But encourage them to talk if they want to kids particularly the younger ones will talk better when their hands are occupied so get them painting or anything and then just chat

I think it can help to open up to them a bit as well

For example I really miss your dad today because xxx

Try and let them know that lots of different emotions are fine they can be cross at their dad or the world or god if that's what they are feeling but it does not mean they dont live their dad

Try and help them remember their dad eg memory boxes for each of them

Bumping for much better advice for you

pamelat Wed 06-Mar-13 12:39:33

I'm so sorry

I'm also not qualified to give any advice but echo the importance of talking, grief counselling and talking about dad.

Poor mites

Personally I'd do as much as I could to support their mum, and hopefully shell find the strength to help them through this.


exexpat Wed 06-Mar-13 12:52:46

It depends on what your relationship is to the children and how well you know them and their mother.

My husband died when our children were aged 8 and 3. They are now 14 and 10. They have both rejected all offers of counselling/play therapy etc, and most of the time don't want to talk about his death or their feelings with anyone other than me. They find it intrusive and upsetting. (I also don't like it when people seem to want to be impromptu counsellors.)

However, the children do like it when other people who knew their father talk about him - not about his death or their feelings, but anecdotes and memories about things he did when he was alive. It is important that they don't feel he is a taboo subject. They also liked it when other people gave us photographs (eg one former colleague of DH's put together a photobook for us).

I think unless you are very, very close to these children, or are a trained grief counsellor (which I presume you are not, or you wouldn't be asking the question), you should not try to 'help' them - just be a friend to the family, mention their father in passing when appropriate, and talk about him if they seem to want to, but don't keep bringing the subject up deliberately.

Practical help for their mother might be appreciated, perhaps offering to babysit so she can get some time to herself, or taking the children out for an outing somewhere.

DeWe Wed 06-Mar-13 13:48:19

exexpat speaks a lot of sense.

I had a friend whose dad died when we were about 13/14.
She said what she really hated was people who either said "I miss him too. He was a great friend"-she thought "yes, you've lost one friend, I've lost my only dad". I'm sure they thought they were empathising with her, but to her they were devaluing the grief she felt. Her mum could say that sort of thing, but really no one else.
And also people who said "I know how you feel, my cat died last year"

Unless you're very very close to the children, then practical help for the family, giving little stories/memories from time to time, and allowing them to talk if they want to. But not trying to back them into a corner where they felt they have to tell you or they'll seem uncaring. That was what my friend most appreciated.

Moknicker Wed 06-Mar-13 13:59:29

I lost my father when I was 13 and concur with exexpat on everything she has said. The things which helped me then were
- Anecdotes and stories about my dad which i loved and still do
- My aunt came to stay with us for a month after his death and that helped bring some normalcy to our life and to our household.
- I agree that counseling type conversations are unhelpful at this stage unless the child initiates it (which is unlikely)
- I know i felt happy and upbeat soon after his death about things that were good in my life and not overwhelmed by grief - luckily that was okay in our household as we had a lot of laughter

The only caveat is that unlike exexpat, my father suffered horribly from cancer for about a year before he died and in fact his death was a form of release more for him and us. I think the situation may be different for an unexpected demise.

Bigtrousers Wed 06-Mar-13 22:02:05

There is a charity called Winstons Wish.

Bigtrousers Wed 06-Mar-13 22:03:03

Posted too soon. Winstons wish has guidance and helpline for how to support bereaved children.

chocolatetester1 Wed 06-Mar-13 22:25:08

I second winston's wish. I used some if the ideas in class and with my own when a close family member died.
Best wishes.

ecat Tue 12-Mar-13 09:37:38

Thanks for the responses. Lots of sound advice. It is greatly appreciated. Part of my difficulty with knowing how to "help" is that we live so far away from the children - on the other side of the world. I was hoping that somebody would be able to recommend any books aimed at children?
I'll have a look at the website and pass it on.

exexpat Tue 12-Mar-13 11:13:19

To be honest, I didn't find that any books were particularly useful to my children.

There may be a list on Winston's Wish; some of the ones often recommended are Badger's Parting Gifts (but that's a bit young for the ages you give), Water Bugs and Dragonflies (also a bit young), and Michael Rosen's Sad Book - possibly more age appropriate, but not exactly 'helpful', apart from validating all sorts of feelings. Others have more of a religious bent and talk about heaven (not my thing, but it may be meaningful to some), or are more about losing grandparents so talk about people getting old & frail, which is not appropriate in this case.

If you are far away, but knew the father, and have photographs, then I think a photo album or book with a personal message would almost certainly be appreciated. Or a letter with some happy memories, that they can keep in a memory box.

If your widowed friend/relative hasn't yet found it, the Merry Widow website/discussion board, aimed at younger widows, is a good source of support, including advice on how to deal with bereaved children. The book written by its founder is good too.

foxymollo Sun 14-Apr-13 17:07:25

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