- What is National Grief Awareness Week?
- How do you deal with grief?
- How do you help a child understand grief?
As a parent, you likely want to protect your child from the sadness of grief. However, death is an unavoidable part of life, and children can experience grief just like the rest of us.
National Grief Awareness Week is 2 December - 8 December in the UK, and it’s a great opportunity to teach your child about the realities of grief and how to cope with loss.
What is National Grief Awareness Week?
National Grief Awareness Week (NGAW) was created by The Good Grief Trust, which was set up by Linda Magistris after she lost her husband to cancer. The Trust exists to help people in the UK find support when they are grieving. NGAW in particular is to raise awareness of the impact of grief, and how without adequate resources, bereavement can lead to serious mental and physical issues. NGAW is also an opportunity for people in the UK to learn more about the resources The Good Grief Trust has available across the country.
NGAW encourages us to check in on those in our community. Grief often leads to intense loneliness, and feeling the support of others in times of grief can help mitigate some of the pain of losing a loved one.
How do you deal with grief?
If you’ve lost someone close to you, you know how difficult it is. When someone you love dies, you may feel like your world is falling apart. According to the NHS, symptoms of grief include:
- Shock and numbness
- Overwhelming sadness
- Exhaustion or unrelenting tiredness
- Anger - towards the person you lost or the reason for the loss
- Guilt - i.e., about not being able to stop your loved one’s death, or things left unsaid
It may feel like the pain will never go away. However, there are ways to cope. Talking to a counsellor can help you make sense of your feelings and learn how to navigate them. It can also be helpful to try group counselling or a support group, to connect with those going through the same thing as you. The UK Counselling Directory can help you find the bereavement support you need.
It’s important to remember too, even though things won’t ever be the same, it doesn’t mean they can’t be good anymore. They’ll just be different.
How do you help a child understand grief?
It can be devastating for a parent to watch a child grieve. Whether it’s the loss of a parent, a grandparent, a friend, or even a pet, children experience grief just like the rest of us. There are ways to help them understand and cope with their emotions.
Be honest with your child
The most important thing you can do to help your child is talking with them. Charity Marie Curie recommends being open and honest with your children, in an age-appropriate way. Use direct language to explain that someone died. Saying they “went to sleep” or “went away” can make your child afraid of going to sleep, or worry that you’ll go away suddenly, too.
If your child has questions about how the person died, be honest with them. You don’t have to explain gruesome details, rather, you can provide a simple explanation. Answer any other questions they have too. They may want to know what will happen now, and what happens after someone dies. If your family practices a certain religion, you can use that to help explain things, too.
Conversely, if your child doesn’t want to open up or ask questions, be patient with them. Try doing an activity together to get them talking. Young children in particular often find art a great way to express their emotions. Above all, though, give them time, and let them know that you love them and are there for them no matter what.
Remember, too, that it’s okay to not have all the answers. When it comes to death, none of us do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help your child understand this difficult time.
You don’t have to do it all alone
Helping your child understand grief can be painful, especially when you’re trying to navigate your own. Seeking outside resources can help both you and your child make sense of the grief you’re experiencing. The Book Trust has a list of books to help your child understand death and bereavement. There are also counsellors available who specialise in children’s grief. Charity Young Minds can help you find one for your child.
You don’t just need to rely on professional support, though. If your family recently experienced a loss, allow others to help, whether that’s by dropping off dinners, picking your children up from school, or just doing a fun activity to take your mind off things. Grief isn’t easy, but you’re not alone, and neither is your child.