Ways to Help
Grieve together. Try to include surviving children in the family's mourning, including services and rituals. Do not insist that children participate but give them the opportunity to be involved.
Find another caring adult to be a "buddy" for survivors. This person can serve as a security blanket of sorts; it may be easier for survivors to express their emotions to someone outside the family. Parents are grieving, too, and can be understandably distracted at times.
Look for ways to remember the lost child. Creating a scrapbook, releasing balloons, recognizing birthdays, and other similar activities can be healthy ways to reflect and start the healing process.
Try to maintain normal routines as much as possible. Obviously, family life will be disrupted after the death of a child. But by keeping some semblance of routine, parents can provide a sense of security. There definitely will be a "new normal" in family life, but surviving children need stability and consistency in their lives.
Be as open and honest as possible. Children need to trust the adults who care for them, and they can learn from your grief, too. Obviously, if an adult is mourning in unhealthy ways, these behaviors are not desirable to display to survivors. Likewise, any information However, children need models for how to cope. Yes, it might be scary to hear the truth or see their parents upset, but imagination can often be worse than reality.
Encourage healthy expression. Allow children, and adults, the chance to vent emotions through physical activity and creative pursuits. Sometimes painting a picture or writing a story can be cathartic, providing an outlet for emotions that are suppressed.
Allow your child to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Kids will have many conflicting and often ambivalent feelings. Some of these will be self-centered; this is normal, especially in young children in early stages of cognitive and emotional development. Do not criticize or disapprove of their expressions. Just listen and validate.
Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more. Research has demonstrated that after any major life event, people need to talk it out to encourage healthy coping. This applies to children as well. Sometimes talking does not come easy or early in the mourning process. But eventually, words can flow. Be available and provide opportunities for discussion. Start a conversation and see where it goes.
Express your love for the surviving children. Tell them you love them and reassure them as much as possible that you are still there for them. Let them know they will be safe and secure. Kids are emotionally vulnerable at this time, and they need to know they still matter to the family.