Question

Helping Grandchildren With the Loss of a Parent

Question:

My daughter-in-law recently died of cancer and my husband and I are providing before and after school childcare for our 4 grandchildren. All of them are grieving the loss of their mother, each in different ways because they are ages 4-15. How can we honor the memory of their mother, help them cope with the loss, and also keep them focused on getting things done for school?

Response:

I am so sorry for this loss in your family. You can be very helpful by just being there to listen to them talk openly and honestly about their feelings of loss and memories of their mother.

Your 4-year-old grandchild is probably more likely to cry and make comments here and there about missing Mommy and you can be there to hold and console him or her.

If one or more of your grandchildren is not able to talk about this loss or doesn’t want to talk, you might encourage him or her to do a creative project. Some kids are more able to express their feelings in writing or via painting or creating a musical piece than via talking.

Also, it can be very helpful to ask them to come up with a way to commemorate their mother. They might decide to put together a scrapbook or photo album, plant a garden in her honor, or set aside a place in their house where they can keep things that remind them of her.

Keeping them in their regular routines will be helpful, as well. Things feel pretty chaotic after the loss of a loved one and having specific things to do- such as eating, doing homework, doing chores, and showering- at specific times can help each day feel a little less chaotic.

Watch for any changes in behaviors that become a pattern for more than a month or two. Don’t hesitate to talk with your son if you see or hear anything that causes you to worry about a grandchild’s mental health. There are lots of resources to help kids cope with grief and loss.

Finally, be sure to take care of yourself and be gentle with yourself. You are also grieving and need to keep your energy up in order to be available and present with your grandchildren.

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