Be sensitive to their lives that now involve a huge void without them having their Mom or Dad. They feel so different, so inadequate compared to their friends. Even those classmates with split families still have two parents. The child who has lost a parent has only fading memories, and if they were too young they may be without even those.
It can help to openly share remembrances. It may seem like removing many/all of the personal effects will make it easier to live without a Mom or Dad who is no longer there. Yet some families have found it aids in their healing to hold on to some of those items, like their mom/dad’s clothes that the child may want to wear when they get older. Keeping the home as it was, retaining the pictures and other mementos can help the child transition through the loss, rather than being constantly reminded of it.
You might also choose to approach the loss as a temporary separation. Unlike the permanent departure caused by divorce, parents have chosen to share with their child that their Mom/Dad is now happy to be experiencing wonderful things and that she/he will be waiting for them.
Personal healing for the surviving parent is often pushed aside when they have kids to care for. The focus is on giving the kids a life that tries not to change too much. It is important that friends and family offer to share in the many responsibilities that the single parent now must do on their own. Here are some suggested ways:
It will be healthy for you and your child if you help them get involved outside the home. They need to know life goes on and there can be fun and joy in their lives. Ask other parents for suggestions.
There will be many other adults who come in contact with your child through daycare, school, church, clinics, and activities. Seek their thoughts after they spend time with your daughter or son.
Your child will often be observing you and they are quite perceptive. Your response to their thoughts such as “I miss Mom/Dad’ is sometimes more important than their statement. For many parents it has helped to be open and honest with their feelings. Their response ‘I miss her/him too’ will often show the questioning child that what she/he is feeling is normal, and that can help open additional talking and sharing. The goal here is to share your feelings together.
Your home can be a sanctuary from the outside pressures your child experiences. Ending the day by cuddling in her/his bedroom at bedtime and reading together can be wonderfully therapeutic for both of you. There are some very good children’s books to read. Teachers, ministers, doctors, friends and family members can all be good sources for you.