As we approach Father’s Day, I thought to share some practical ways which can make a real difference in supporting bereaved children, specifically fatherless children in your circles.
Growing up in a culture that often avoids talking about grief and tends to disregard the need for a counselor. These are some of the practical ways I found most helpful as a teenager and also with the children I have worked with:
- Make time to listen and talk. It’s important to recognize that children also grieve. Children and teenagers are often neglected when it comes to dealing with grief. We assume they will be fine. That elephant in the room must be addressed. Everyone has different coping mechanism but it is important not to shy away from the topic unless the child has specifically requested not to talk about it. This is usually because they may be processing all the emotions they’re experiencing internally and may not be ready to deal with them just yet.
- Show that you care. I love this quote “People who care, use words to express. People who care more, use their actions”. You can show you care by spending quality time with the bereaved child. Depending on their personality, likes and dislikes, you can choose an activity they’re likely to enjoy. Perhaps an activity they shared with their loved one before they passed away. It could be a sport activity, watching a movie, visiting a museum or just sitting on a couch and chatting.
- Write them an encouraging note. A short hand-written note to uplift them. This could even be a poem, or a prayer. It could be in the form of a letter to your younger self. I’ve always found hand-written notes very heart warming and a reminder that someone cares about my well-being.
- Connect them with a mentor (or professional counsellor) – Someone who can help them open up to their fears and challenges.
- Get them a copy of ‘Encouragement for the Bereaved Child’ book and the accompanying Letters of Hope Journal. (Click here)
This is a non-exhaustive list, and you will find the most effective approach by spending time with the child. What works well in one season may not be as helpful in another season, depending on what else is going in the child’s life and the intensity of their grief.
Question: Have you experienced bereavement yourself? Either as a child or a young adult…what support did you find most helpful, please feel free to leave a comment below.