Fathering | Dealing with the death of a parent

May 17, 2014 

I recently decided to volunteer with the organization Tides, a group that provides emotional and social support for children who have lost a parent. I was particularly struck by the number of children I interacted with who had lost a parent at such a young age. It is especially difficult for these children in the arrival of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to cope with such a loss.

Whatever the manner in which our child is grieving, we as parents need to reinforce that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Here are some ideas to consider when approaching the subject of death of a parent with them:

Action ideas

• If you have a child who is in the 3-to-7-year-old range, try to avoid euphemisms when explaining the death of their mom or dad. Statements such as the family “lost” the person or they “went away” may make them fearful of going to sleep or fearful when someone leaves.

• When speaking to your elementary school-age child, it is a good idea to help them begin to understand the death experience by giving them simple, accurate, clear and honest explanations about what has happened, and help them process their feelings.

• Encourage them to become involved with activities with other children who have lost a parent as well — like joining a support group such as Tides. The support of interacting with other children facing such grief is immeasurable.

The local fathering effort, in cooperation with the National Center for Fathering, provides biweekly action ideas to stimulate conversation between fathers and parents. For more information, or to join local conversations, contact David Eggebeen at e5x@psu.edu, Robert Orndorff at rmo104@psu.edu, Mick Trombley at mick@micktrombley.com, Chris Dufour at chrisdufour19@gmail.com or Marc McCann at marc.mccann88@gmail.com. See the Centre County Fathering website for resources and information at www.centrefathering.org.

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