As a PhD candidate at Ohio State University, Dr. Beth Grosshans completed her thesis on the course of grief in children who have lost a parent. Dr. Beth Grosshans has since gone on to counsel children and teenagers in her private practice.
When a child’s parent dies, that child needs help in processing the complex and intense emotions that they are experiencing. The most important thing that adults can do is reassure the child that whatever they are feeling is normal and understandable, even if they are feeling anger or other emotions that they may feel guilty about having.
After the loss of a parent, children need adequate time to process the assoicated emotions. Adults often avoid the topic of grief in the effort to protect the child from negative feelings, but these feelings will come up regardless. A grieving child needs to know that an adult is there to listen whenever he or she needs to talk something out.
While helping children work through their feelings of grief, adults should take time to reassure them that everyone grieves in their own way. It may be helpful if a child sees adults expressing their own sadness or frustration so that they can more fully understand that it is normal to struggle with accepting a death. Finally, children should hear often that no one expects them to get over the death, but instead learn to live in a world without the deceased parent while making a permanent space for that parent in their hearts.