The Loss of a Parent
Judy Schiffman, LCSW, Director or Children's Grief Center writes, “Loss of a parent comes in many forms. By young adulthood it is estimated that 15-20% of children will lose a parent through death. Others find their living and home situations changed by divorce, illness, accidents, abandonment, homelessness or violence. Each of these children go through a process of grieving whether it is for the parent they lost, the parent they wanted or the parent they won’t have. For most children, it is all of these images of their parent. They are confronted with what they had and expected to always have no matter what the relationship was like.
Children grieve differently than adults. They often move in and out of their grief. As they grow, they keep reworking their loss. Studies have shown us that the loss of a parent is profound and that there are throughout life constant reminders and thoughts about the parent. Often following the loss, the child will take on a characteristic or interest of the lost parent as a way to keep them close. We need to let children grieve. We need to expect them to be children and not replace the lost parent. We need most of all to allow the child to talk about his loss. Acting as if it didn’t happen or being afraid to discuss it only burdens the child more. Our own grief may be overshadowed by how available we are to the child, but we need to learn to be open and honest. It is okay to tell a child you are sad or angry or guilty. He knows it anyway. It also helps him know that there are many different feelings that are evoked by a loss. It helps him feel less alone.
Judy Schiffman, LCSW