When Jensen died, it was the first time I had ever felt that type of grief.
It followed me everywhere. No matter what I did, it felt tangled in my every day life. Honestly, grief is still present. Although it doesn’t control me as it did before, I can feel it deep down. It’s been creeping up lately, so have the tears, as we get closer to his birthday.
When I got pregnant with Mila, I wondered how his death would impact her. We’ve always said his name and she loves seeing his picture. Mila always says how much she loves and misses her Jensen. She’s not been the biggest fan of Jensen bear, but as of lately, she’s been more interested.
For the first time ever, I haven’t had to wonder when the first time she’d bring his loss up.
Before bed, Mila asked, for the first time ever, if Jensen bear could come and sleep with us. She picked him up and didn’t complain about how heavy he was. After she tucked him in beside me, she went and grabbed a book for us to read.
While reading it, she cuddled with Jensen bear and hugged him tight. As the story ended, she looked at me with her big eyes and asked why Jensen wasn’t with us.
I told her he was always in our hearts and when we missed him we could talk to him.
This answer wasn’t the one she wanted. Her mouth turned to a frown and I saw a familiar feeling. The heaviness of grief weighed her down. She misses him and doesn’t understand why she can’t have her brother.
I wish I could tell her why and make it all better, but this is the grieving process.
Instead of telling her it’d eventually be all okay, I held her tight and told her I missed him too. I let her know it was okay to be sad.
This is sibling grief.
I’ve been on this grief journey for almost five years now. It’s changed how I view the world and myself in it. There’s no question on if it’ll do the same to Mila.
Here’s some ways I’ve helped her grieve the death of her brother. Maybe it can help your child grieve too.
Talk openly about the person.
Let your child know it’s okay to talk about the person that’s not here anymore. By opening up that conversation, they’ll be able to express their feelings and memories about the loss and the person.
Get a physical way they can remember their loved one.
We love our Jensen bear. It’s a great comfort object that can actually help and squeezed. For toddlers and kids, I think a stuffed animal with a loved ones shirt would be perfect. Another idea would be a necklace or piece of jewelry they can keep on them too.
Start a journal with them.
Although Mila is a little young to be journaling, I plan on doing this with her when she starts to write. Sometimes kids don’t want to express their feelings through talking, a journal is a great way to get those feelings out without making them uncomfortable. There are a lot of ways to co-journal with your child too.
Encourage them to express their feelings through art.
Drawing and painting is a great way to have your child show you what they’re feeling. This could be incorporated as a journal or a weekly activity. Let them know there’s no wrong way to feel or express it.
Celebrate your loved ones.
I think one of the hardest things for people to grasp is there is joy in grief. As hard as it is to lose someone, there’s still all that love and happiness they brought too. For Mila, we celebrate Jensen’s birthday every year, we put up his Christmas ornaments, and include him in our family pictures. He is always celebrated with us and is included just as much as if he was actually here.
Let them be sad.
No one can make grief feel better. Sometimes you have to sit with that sadness. This goes the same for kids too. All you can do is listen and be there for your child. They’ll let you know what they need from you. Sadness is a healthy emotion when it can properly be felt.
If your child is depressed make sure to reach out to a therapist to best help their needs.
I’ll never claim to know everything about grief, but a lot of these things have helped Mila and I plan on continuing to incorporate them in our lives for a long time.
Do you have any other ways that can help a child through the loss of a loved one and grief?