When you become a parent, the last thing you want to think about is your child experiencing even a moment of pain and sadness. You want to keep your child in a bubble, away from harm and heartbreak.
Quickly we realize, as parents, that our kids will fall down and get bumps and scrapes, and that it is okay. We kiss their booboos and they get right back up again, running head first towards their next challenge without a moment’s hesitation.
A scraped knee after tumbling down the slide at the playground is something we parents know how to handle. We are ready with our open arms, antibacterial wipes, and multi-colored Band-Aids before the fall even happens.
It is much more difficult, however, to mend your child’s broken heart when tragedy occurs and you lose a loved one. You cannot put a Band-Aid on the flood of emotions you and your child may experience, but there are some things you can do to help your toddler cope with grief and loss.
1. Ride the Wave
First and foremost, do not try to dam the flood of emotions. Instead, ride the wave. I recently lost a beloved family member and when I received the news, I burst into tears. My daughter, as always, was sitting upon my lap when I received the phone call.
As I began to cry, her own face crumbled, mirroring my despair. At first, I began to tell her that everything was okay, but then I realized that it would be a lie. Instead I explained that I was very sad and when I get sad, I cry. I explained that sometimes hurts can be on the inside, just like a booboo on the knee, only these are heart hurts.
As I grieved the loss of my loved one, I cried many, many times. I let my daughter see my emotions, thus helping her learn that it is okay to be sad and show sadness, as it is unfortunately a part of life, However, I also showed her that hugs and kisses, coupled with talking about your feelings, go a long ways towards healing.
As my daughter grows and matures, I want her to be able to come to me and talk about all of her feelings, good and bad. The best way to teach her the importance of open communication is to model it myself.
For great books to read with your toddler and additional helpful strategies, please scroll down and click the next page.