5 minute read
Losing a friend is a traumatic experience for anyone, but it can be an especially devastating and emotional experience for children and young adults as they struggle to understand what has happened. They will likely feel a range of emotions from sadness, anger, confusion, disbelief and even guilt.
As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to best support our children through such a challenging time.
Supporting a child after the loss of a friend can be a challenging and emotional process. However, by giving them the time and support they need, parents can help their child through this difficult time.
Remember that every child copes with grief in their own way, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve. With time, patience, and support, your child can learn to navigate this difficult time and come out the other side stronger and more resilient.
Create a Safe and Supportive Environment
It's vital to create a safe and supportive environment for children and young adults to express their emotions and feelings. Encourage them to talk openly about their friend and share their memories. Listen without judgement.
Validate their feelings and let them know they are not alone in feeling this way.
Reassure your child that you are there for them.
Be a good listener and let your child do the majority of the talking as this will help them to start processing what has happened.
Let them know you have heard their concerns and how they feel and, most of all, you care.
Encourage Self Care
It is important that children and young adults can take care of themselves both physically and mentally, in an age appropriate way, especially when coping with grief.
Encourage them to stick to a routine, eat well, exercise or take walks in nature, get enough sleep, and continue to do the activities that they enjoy.
Journaling can help support their mental health as it provides an opportunity for reflecting on their feelings, and getting thoughts out of their head and onto paper instead. Guided meditations can also offer a moment of calmness.
Encourage Them to Stay Connected with Others
Encourage your child to connect with others who have also experienced the loss of their friend.
Whilst it may be tempting for them to stay away from school or university while they process their grief, speaking with others who have been through a similar experience can help your child feel less alone and more supported.
Many children can feel invincible, so losing a friend can make them feel vulnerable and afraid.
Reassure your child that they are safe and that they have people around them who care about them.
Let them know that you are there for them and that they can come to you with any concerns or questions they may have.
Monitor Any Changes in Behaviour
Your child may show signs of distress or changes in their behaviour, such as withdrawing from people or activities they previously enjoyed, changing their eating habits, disrupted sleep and increased anxiety. You may also notice they become angry and direct this toward the people they love the most, you.
Acknowledge that negative behaviour is usually the result of negative feelings, and they still need your support.
Acknowledge Their Pain
It will be especially devastating and confusing if your child has lost a friend to suicide. Acknowledge their pain and reassure them that it is ok to feel a multitude of different emotions including sadness, anger, confusion, disbelief and guilt.
Encourage your child to spend time with their friends who have shared the experience.
Talking About Suicide
Parents who have lost a child to suicide often report that they never thought it would happen to them.
While talking to your own child about suicide may feel daunting and intimidating, it is important to talk openly and ask your child “Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide?”
If your child says yes, then it is really important to remain calm as this may well determine how much information they tell you.
Avoid any criticism or judgement, regardless of what’s going on for your child.
Acknowledge how they are feeling and how brave they are to be so honest.
Work on a plan with them to keep them safe.
Seek Professional Help
If your child is struggling to cope with their feelings and emotions, or if you're concerned about their mental well-being, it's important to seek professional help.
A mental health professional can help your child process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and navigate through the grieving process.
Taking care of our mental health is an essential part of our overall well-being.
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