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Supporting Children After the Loss of a Loved One

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Alex Frodge, Megan Reese, Grace Morgan, Alyssa Mahle, & Lexi Fee

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"Children have their own unique patterns of coping with separation and loss, which are distinct and different from adult patterns.  It is critical to account for children’s levels of cognitive and emotional development when supporting grieving children and helping them cope with their own grief.  Paying close attention to what they understand about death will help them learn to tolerate their own and others’ grief reactions."

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Websites for Understanding Loss & Grief in Children

These websites offer insight into understanding how to approach children about loss and grief, skills and practices to support them through hard times, and further resources.

These websites provide information on how to support and approach a child with difficult and hard to understand news. It provides information for supporting each group, giving information on their emotional development, potential signs of grief, and skills to best comfort and approach a child during that time. 

Helping Children Cope with Death and Dying | CRHCF

Helping Children in Grief: Understanding Childhood Bereavement | CRHCF

This website comes from a professional development website and provides information for adults on helping a child understand death by checking what they understand and information how to approach children with what to say and what not to say.

Helping Young Children Grieve and Understand Death | NAEYC

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Children's Literature for Understanding Loss & Grief

Ida, Always by Caron Levis

This picture book is a beautiful story about loss and deep friendship, portrayed through the lens of two polar bears. This book could be helpful to young children (ages 4 and up) who are struggling to process feelings of grief and missing their lost loved one. This book could be read aloud and a child could continue to read this for comfort.

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I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas 

This picture book explains the difficult feelings and processes that surround death. These feelings are especially difficult for children to express, and this book provides children with a space and vocabulary to do so. This book also gently and simply explains some of the normal processes (such as sadness and funerals) that follow death. This book can be helpful for a parent to read with their child, especially very young children, to address questions or worries they may have.

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Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?: Letters to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

This book by Fred Rogers addresses the many letters and questions he has received over the years. Some of these questions are more lighthearted, but some also address important topics such as family relationships and death. Mr. Rodger’s tone is gentle and sensitive, which would be great for any grieving child. This book would be great to read and discuss with young children and older children may be able to read it independently.

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

This book focuses on the many experiences of grief from many perspectives. This book is both affirming and comforting for those, of any age, experiencing grief, and also helps explain to a child why someone else might be grieving. This book could be especially beneficial for older children and tweens, or could be read and discussed in small chunks of text with a parent for younger children.

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One Wave at a Time: A Story about Grief and Healing by Holly Thompson

This beautifully illustrated picture book describes the story and feelings that a young boy named Kai experiences after his father passes away. The illustrations help express emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, guilt, and more. This story could be helpful and comforting for people of all ages. It would be a great book to read aloud to a child or can be read independently. The book’s discussion of different emotions would be especially helpful for parents to facilitate that kind of discussion with their kids.

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Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

This picture book is a beautiful message about the power and gift of love. While it does not directly address death, the idea that your loved ones always be with you wherever you go will serve well to a child experiencing loss. This is a simple but powerful story that could be read and understood by children of many ages. For young children, it would be best read aloud but older children may enjoy reading it independently.

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Movies to Help Children Understand Grief & Loss



Inside Out

We Bought a Zoo

Charlotte's Web

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Resourceful Graphics

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How to Talk to Kids about Death | Child Anxiety

How to Talk to Kids about Death | Child Anxiety

How to Talk to Kids about Death | Child Anxiety Full Playlist: - - No child should suffer depression and anxiety without help, seek professional help for you and your child and here’s some resources for educating yourself along the way: Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: How To Get Unstuck From The Negative Muck: Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers: What to Do When You're Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids: What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety: Watch more How to Deal with Child Anxiety & Depression videos: Today I'm going to talk to you about how to talk to your kids about death. I know it's a very scary topic for adults and certainly it is for children, but I think what you need to do is approach it like any topic that you need to give your child information and help them with. The first thing you want to think about when you want to talk to your child about death, certainly, is their age. That their age dictates what they can understand, and that means that a very young child doesn't understand the concept of gone forever or never coming back, and by that we mean, you know, certainly, an infant, toddler, even preschooler. When you get to the school age child, they begin to understand that the person isn't coming back, and certainly by age eight, nine, ten, they understand that the person won't come back, that it could happen to anyone, it could happen at any time, and it means that your body doesn't work anymore. So they may have more fears, but they also may have a lot more questions and curiosity about what happened and some of the details. Then with teenagers they're thinking much more about the reality and again the rest of their life and what that might mean about themselves and the mortality. And they have much more abstract ways that they're thinking about it. Now in general, if the death was someone that was important and close to that child, then you really want to look at their reactions. Now, their reactions can vary quite a bit, from feeling distress and upset and possibly reacting to just the change in the environment if they're very young children, to older children, they may worry more about themselves, about other people, and something bad happening to them or getting hurt. And teenagers really worrying about the future and what would happen, again, to other people, and is it safe? Now, when you talk to kids about death, so you want to understand their age and what they can understand, and then when you actually sit down and talk to them, you want to use the real language. Use the appropriate words, but use them in a way that fits the child's age. But you can use the word "died" or "sick" for a very young child. You might go into more detail with a 10 year old, or certainly with a 16 year old. But the more the real information is there, then the less they're going to rely on their imagination. The more you keep something a secret, the more they think it's something scary, so the best thing you can do is get it out there in the open, let them know you're there for the true answers. That they can trust you at a time when they may feel like their world is not so safe anymore, and that when they have questions they know who to go to. Now, also remember that it's not just one conversation when something big happens in a child's life. You may tell them and you may give them some information. They may have questions. Listen to their questions. Don't think about what your questions are. Don't assume what your children are thinking about. Ask them. Listen. Watch their behavior to understand more about how they're reacting and adjusting to any kind of significant death. And then go in with more information. And then make sure to not only give information about what happened, but also talk about feelings and how to cope with those feelings, so that everybody has a way to deal with what's in their head, about thoughts, as well as what's in their heart, about feeling and whoever that special person was.
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Podcasts to Help Understand and Support Children through Loss & Grief

Supporting Children’s Grief in the Classroom: Part 2-10 Tips and Strategies to Better Support Grieving Children

10 Tips and strategies are explored for the benefit of teachers, staff, and administrators to help support grieving children in the classroom.

Brennan, J. (Host). (2019, May 16). The Changing Perspectives Podcast. Episode 17: Supporting Children’s Grief in the Classroom [Audio Podcast}.

Grief Out Loud

Personal stories, tips, and interviews with professionals are portrayed to open the hard conversation about dealing with grief and death of a loved one for children, teens, and yourself.  

Carter, K. (Host). (2020, September 21). Grief Out Loud Podcast. Episode 164: SUpporting Children and Teens in Grief  [Audio Podcast].

Supporting Children Through Loss

Rabbi Karlin-Neumann, Stanford Graduate School of Education Student Dean Dan Schwartz, and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope analyze and discuss different ways children experience grief and the emotions they go through. They discuss different tips and techniques for adults to support the children in whatever way is needed with each student.

Karlin-Neumann, P. (Host). (2020, May 11). Supporting Children Through Loss Podcast. Episode 97: The Emotions Children and Young Adults Experience During Times of Bereavement  [Audio Podcast].

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