What do you say to a child who has lost a parent?

  • By Robert S. Campbell II, for Inside Tucson Business
  • Apr 1, 2011

For people of any age, the death of a parent can be a time of enormous challenge, but perhaps none feel this pain more acutely than children.

Each year, an estimated 2.5 million children in the United States under the age of 18 experience this trauma, according to the Social Security Administration.

In these circumstances, it’s important for children to get support from the adults around them. For adults, this task must not start with assumptions about what children understand or feel about death.null

It is also vital to be patient with children as they attempt to express their feelings. Adults often think kids are resilient and they are “too young” to grieve.

Actually, all children grieve, often in ways different than adults.

Just being ready to listen attentively is a very good way to start. But the main thing you need to do as an adult is to demonstrate in some way that you are there to provide help in whatever way you can.

What should you say?

What should you say to a child who has just experienced a loss?

David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in their book “On Grief and Grieving” offer these suggestions of what to say:

• “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.”

• “You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.”

• “I am so sorry for your loss.”null

• “My favorite memory of your loved

one is…”

• And sometimes it’s just best to be with the child and not say anything.

Resources to turn to

If you or someone close to you is experiencing loss and needs help coping, resources you can turn to include your primary health care provider, a community-based bereavement program or hospice service, counseling services, a faith group, friends and family members and even Web-based support services.

Any of these can provide a start on helping children heal.

New York Life offers a bereavement booklet, “After a Loved One Dies – How Children Grieve: and how parents and other adults can support them.”

It is designed specifically for parents and caring adults dealing with children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Additionally, the company has partnered with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the “Sesame Street” TV series, to distribute a newly published multimedia kit, “When Families Grieve.”

Both the booklet and workshop materials are available from any New York Life agent at no cost and without obligation.

Contact Robert S. Campbell II, LUTCF, a financial advisor with Eagle Strategies LLC, at www.robertcampbell.nylagents.com or

(520) 620-5358.

More Information

David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in their book “On Grief and Grieving” offer these suggestions of what to say:

• “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.”

• “You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.”

• “I am so sorry for your loss.”

• “My favorite memory of your loved one is…”

• And sometimes it’s just best to be with the child and not say anything.

New York Life offers a bereavement booklet, “After a Loved One Dies – How Children Grieve: and how parents and other adults can support them.”

Additionally, the company has partnered with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the “Sesame Street” TV series, to distribute a newly published multimedia kit, “When Families Grieve.” Both the booklet and workshop materials are available from any New York Life agent at no cost and without obligation.

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