How to Help Your Child Grieve

At last count, 4.5 million people have died from Covid-19. This means many children have lost a caregiver or teacher or grandparent over the course of the pandemic. Read on for advice from a local hospice chaplain on how to help your child grieve during this difficult season.

Photo Courtesy Kat Jane

Grief is a difficult subject to broach. Often we have trouble discussing loss in our culture, especially with children. The good news is, we don’t have to teach our children to grieve. Our children just need us to grieve openly and honestly ourselves. If we can be honest about our feelings of loss, anger and sadness, our children will likely be honest about their feelings as well. 


Allow your child to ask any and all questions. Sometimes children catch more than we think they do, even if we think we are keeping adult discussions behind closed doors. When they ask hard questions, sometimes the best response is to ask them their thoughts on the topic.  For example, if you are dealing with something hard like suicide, and your child asks you what that means, ask them what they think it means first. You can see how much they already know and correct misinformation. Telling your child “I don’t know, honey,” is OK. Parents don’t need to have all the answers.

Cry with them and hold them. Talk about how you are feeling. Let them know it’s okay and healthy to grieve.

Accept all grief. The pandemic has brought many types of grief. This can be the loss of the way things were — loss of in-person connection to friends, sports and activities — or the actual loss of family members or friends who have died because of the virus. Allow  your child to openly discuss how they feel and what they wish or hope for in the future.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. You don’t have to do this alone. And you don’t have to wait for things to be terrible before you seek help.



The most amazing resource I have  come across for children is the Dougy Center, a grief support center with multiple locations in the Portland area. The Dougy Center has resources covering age-appropriate coping, how to talk about grief and suggested activities. If a child has lost a sibling or a parent, this center has on-site grief support for each age level. They also produce a podcast as well. Their website currently has plenty of COVID-specific grief resources.

Recommended Books:

Ida Always by Caron Levis

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Chuck DeKlyen and Pat Schwiebert

Jana Dluehosh
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