Sometimes, it may seem helpful to not bring up a loved one, or someone significant, who has died because you may worry that you will bring on more sadness for the child you are supporting. And indeed, that may be what happens, which is okay as expressing sadness can sometimes be helpful. In fact, did you know that crying:
- Activates the parasympathetic nervous system which restores the body to a state of equilibrium by helping us relax.
- Releases oxytocin which can ease physical and emotional pain.
- Releases endorphins which can help improve our overall mood.
- Releases stress hormones like cortisol that can build up over time.
I met someone who was 94 at the time and when I told them about my role at the local hospice, being there to support children and families in grief, tears came to their eyes. They spoke about how when they were a child their caregiver died, and no one spoke about their loved one after or about ways to grieve. They talked about how present the grief felt as it had no place to go for so long.
Keep them present for your child by bringing them up.
In my work, I have noticed that when children are given an opportunity to express their grief, sadness, love, joy, and any other feelings they may have, they are more able to create a container, or a safe space, for their grief and it less often spills into other spaces of their lives. This is especially helpful if they are struggling with feelings in spaces that are not as helpful to openly be grieving such as school or in their activities.
We may worry that bringing up someone who has died will remind them of the death. From what I have learned from grievers and from grieving myself is that our loved ones who have died are often in our thoughts. Bringing them up will not make remind them that their loved one has died, instead, it will acknowledge that their loved one lived and create a space where they feel safer to share how they feel. So, bring them up, talk about memories you share, and give space for them to bring them up too.
The hope is that we can help them continue their bond.