Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash
Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Helping Children Deal with Loss


In the last six months we’ve had loss of a grandmother, an uncle, and a close family friend.  These have impacted our entire family, and especially our three young children.  Any suggestions as to how we can help our kids deal with these losses?


Dealing with the inevitable losses of life provides parents with significant challenges and opportunities.  Situations like this can be an opportunity for you model the difference that our Lord can make in the midst of difficult times, and to teach them some invaluable life skills.

I know a bit about losses.  Between 2005 and 2008 I buried my dad, my first wife, one of my sons, and my sister.  Each one a devastating loss in itself.  But to have four losses in four years felt overwhelming.  I knew that Christ didn’t die and rise again just so that we could just survive, but early on, just surviving seemed like a challenge for me.

The most important first step is to be aware of how you are dealing with the losses.  In those early months my prayer life, time in the word, and fellowship with friends made a huge difference in my moving from surviving to healing to living fully in the reality of the new normal.  The role of the Holy Spirit as the “Comforter” took on a whole new meaning.

  • Talk about it–talk about your own hurts, worries, and fears.  Hearing you share your emotions helps them better understand their emotions.  It normalize feelings they may not understand.  It can give them words to help the describe what they are feeling. .
  • Listen to them—encourage them to talk.  Encourage their questions.  Don’t think that you have to have all of the answers.  Comfort them and remind them that they are safe, secure, and loved.
  • Respond with patience—children ask lots of questions and can become clingy.  Reacting creates insecurity. Responding allows you acknowledge that what is happening is painful, and that while the loss is real, because of God’s promise we have hope for tomorrow.
  • Pray with them—individually and as a family.  This is a great time to introduce them to the unique role of the “Comforter” and gives you a unique opportunity to demonstrate what Peter’s exhortation, “casting all your care on him, because he cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7), looks like in real life.

Children watch our responses.  Even if we don’t say a word about our anxiety, our kids can feel it.  Children are very good at reading facial expressions and noticing a change in our tone of voice and facial expressions. What are your kids learning from how you are responding to these losses?

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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