A Mental Health Moment: Grief and the Loss of the Other Parent of a Child

Bernadette Joy Graham,
Licensed Mental Health Therapist

By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPC, NCC, CCHt, Licensed Mental Health Therapist
The Truth Contributor

Grieving is a very private process but we often forget it not only involves ourselves but also, depending on the circumstances, many others around us are part of that process like children.  Children are innocent victims when life presents challenges that your average adult can barely handle.  Why?  Because they are too often pushed aside, ignored, uninformed and left to their own devices of their own little minds to handle adult emotions.

It is very unfortunate that any child experience pain and suffering and it breaks our hearts when we even just hear the news about a child involved in a tragic situation.

For many years, I have been conducting groups for adults on grief recovery.  It is an action- based group that teaches one how to grieve.  In addition, there is also a group designed to help adults assist in children’s grief.  When children grieve, many adults miss the signs and instead will say the child is “acting out” or just plain misbehaving.  Teachers see it in the classrooms and parents and caregivers see it at home.  Newsflash people, children grieve too but unlike adults, they lack the skills and maturity to understand what is happening and how to cope.

As a mental health provider, I am in no position to tell anyone how to raise her children but I would like to offer some suggestions specifically when the child loses a parent.  You know your child better than anyone else but all children will follow your lead.  If your way of grieving is staying in your bedroom isolating, they will probably do the same.  If you fail to address “where’s my dad or what happened to my mom?” your home will be anything but peaceful.  It is very difficult to tell a child your dad or mom has passed away.  Probably one of the worst conversations anyone will ever have to have with a child.

  • Take some time to figure out how to cope with your grief and pain regardless of the type of relationship you had with the other parent.
  • Include the child/children in the process such as funeral, memorial service etc.
  • Be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability.
  • Create a way for them to memorialize their lost parent (again regardless of your relationship with the parent).
  • Consider counseling for both yourself and the child – a specialist in the area of grief.
  • Utilize books about the topic (they do exist for all ages).
  • Let them cry and show emotion – a 10-year-old boy being told to man up and stop crying will reap havoc on his future development and it teaches him that showing emotions is weak while it is very much healthy.
  • Ask for help from your support system – family, friends, church, school.

Take a mental health moment to consider the importance of allowing children to grieve.  Time alone does not heal, keeping children out of the loop of the process causes more futuristic problems emotionally and mentally, find your own perspective on death and share it with the child as they are not equipped to do this just yet.  Be honest with yourself and with the child.

For additional tips go to the website www.parentingforbrain.com. To view the article on “How Does the Death of a Parent Affect a Child”  Please reach out to me for upcoming groups for grief recovery for adults and groups for helping children to grieve.  Groups will be starting again in April.  You may also contact the organization in Toledo, Good Grief that focus specifically on helping children to grieve.  ( (419) 360-4939) https://goodgriefnwo.org/

Bernadette Graham is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. She is also a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. Provide feedback or reach out at graham.bernadette@gmail.com  For appointment information please call 419.409.4929  (Appointments available on Tuesdays and Fridays only). Office location is 3454 Oak Alley Ct. Suite 300 Toledo, OH 43606 www.bjgrahamcounseling.org  Available for team building, employee empowerment in motivation and better understanding mental health in the work place.  Accepting new client ages 13 and older.