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10 Empathetic Ways to Support Grieving Children

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Each year, we honor the challenges faced by bereaved youth on Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which is recognized on the third Thursday in November.

The JAG Institute estimates that there are over 4.9 million youth in the United States who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life. As part of Children’s Grief Awareness Day, Eluna is determined to show that these children and teens are more than a number. Death can be difficult to discuss, especially with young populations. The Eluna Network partners with organizations across the country to bring our programs to local communities. With their help, we’ve compiled a list of tips on how to empathetically communicate and support children and teens who have recently experienced the death of a significant person in their life:

1. “If the child is old enough and ready to ask the question about the death, they are old enough and ready to hear the honest answer.” – Lauren Schneider, Our House Grief Support Center

2. “You don’t have to be perfect, just be present. More than anything, grieving children need to know that others are willing to listen and be present with them while they process.” – Cancer Services

3. “Being with other kids who are going through something similar is comforting, powerful and instructive. Kids can learn more from each other sometimes, than they do from adults, books, movies, etc.” – Cope Foundation

4. “Some days might be really, really hard and some days might be OK. Celebrate your ‘OK’ or good days. Taking a break from grief doesn’t mean you love or miss the person any less.” – Kansas City Hospice

5. “Be real and be honest. Ambiguous or vague conversations about grief can leave children confused – be age-appropriate but direct when discussing death.” – Cancer Services

6. “Engaging kids through activities, music, art, physical movements, etc. allows them to be freer to express themselves and feel their feelings.” – Cope Foundation

7. “We have seen how important and helpful peer-based grief support can be to reduce a sense of isolation in children and teens following the death of someone close to them.” – Our House Grief Support Center

8. “We can’t fix grief, but we can support one another through it. You can help children (and yourself) by letting them know that all of their thoughts and feelings are OK. Allowing them to grieve in their own way reinforces that there are many ways to respond, and that it’s OK to find what works best for them, as long as their behavior does not hurt others or themselves.” – Kansas City Hospice

9. “Just being listened to, without judgment, provides a powerful message. Kids should not be ‘talked out of’ their experiences. But, by being heard, they may be more open to hearing alternatives and additions to their experiences.” – Cope Foundation

10. “Work together. Build a support network so that neither you nor your child have to face the grief experience alone.” – Cancer Services

This story originally appeared on Eluna Network

Originally published: November 25, 2019
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