Guiding a Child Through Parent-Loss

Losing a parent is a profound and challenging experience, especially for children. The loss of her beloved father forever changed my daughter’s world when she was just 10 years old. The emotional road she has traveled in seven years has been a rollercoaster ride,
filled with moments of both strength and vulnerability.

In the immediate aftermath of her father’s passing, my daughter was confronted with a whirlwind of emotions. As her mom, I had the daunting task of giving her the sad news.

I made a decision, right before his passing, of allowing her to visit the hospital and say goodbye. At that point, her dad was already in a deep coma, but I believe he waited for her visit to finally let go. This move on my part, helped her some with the closure and
the devastating truth to follow.

The realization that her dad was no longer physically present brought waves of sorrow, anger, and frustration. The unfairness of losing her father at such a young age and the dreams and milestones they would never share together stirred a fiery storm within me as her mother.

Yet amidst the pain, as her mother, my promise to stand by, comfort, and support her in this process was unwavering. Being a parent coach and later completing my certification in grief counseling proved to be invaluable. I found myself constantly reminding her that healing is lifelong.

Strategies to Support a Grieving Child

In this heartfelt article, I aim to share our personal experience and strategies that I embraced to support my daughter and provide a sense of hope amidst our grief.

During the early stages of our grief journey, I emphasized the importance of being open to signs from her father. This practice allowed my daughter to feel a continued connection with her dad, providing comfort and reassurance. She is a true believer that her father’s spirit continues to guide us in unexpected ways. She will go out of her way now to point out specific incidents that prove this belief is true.

Second, to keep her father’s memory alive, we frequently visited places that held special significance for our family. At times, it was a park, a favorite restaurant, or a vacation spot (in our case, Disney). Returning to these locations allowed my daughter to reminisce and feel a sense of connection to her dad. These visits became cherished opportunities for fostering a deeper understanding of her father.

New Traditions

Third, we created opportunities to honor her dad’s memory. For example, we established an annual tradition of visiting his grave site, creating an art project, buying a gift, or lighting candles on significant dates such as birthdays, Father’s Day, and anniversaries. These rituals served as a way to express our emotions, remember her father, and provide a sense of acknowledgement of the ongoing impact he had on our lives.

Fourth, I always encourage my daughter to be open and honest about her feelings and love for her dad. This has been crucial in helping my daughter navigate her grief. I created a safe space where she felt comfortable sharing her thoughts, feelings, and

Joining Support Groups

Fifth, together we joined support groups specifically tailored to children who have lost a parent. The group provided a space for my daughter to connect with peers who shared similar experiences. It also allowed her to see that she was not alone in her grief and
that there was a community of support available to her.

The emotional road she and I traveled and still travel is not easy, but every emotion and experience shaped her into the resilient young woman she is today. She carries her father’s memory in her heart, knowing that her father’s love and guidance will forever be with her.

In sharing our story of loss, healing, and hope, my hope is to encourage others to embark on their own journeys of honoring their loved ones’ legacies. It is a path that may be filled with challenges and pain, but it is also a path that leads to growth, resilience, and ultimately, a deeper connection to those we hold dear. May we all find the strength to carry our loved ones in our hearts and inspire others to do the same.

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Read more from Dr. Mankes: Positive Attitude and Faith in Grief – Open to Hope

Dr. Carol Leibovich Mankes

My name is Dr. Carol Leibovich - Mankes, DrOT, OTR/L, PLCC, GC-C. I was born in Israel to Argentinian parents. I immigrated to the USA, adapting to a new culture and learning a new language. I am fluent in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. I married my high school sweetheart and celebrated 25 years together in 2016. My husband passed away from Cancer a few months later. I have been a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Parent Coach for the past 20-plus years. My expertise is learning and handwriting difficulties in children aged 3 - 18. I also provide parent coaching through 1:1 sessions and courses to empower parents of "out of the box" kids to advocate and be more effective parents. I am a Widow and a Solo Mom who has gone through many losses and transitions in her life. I’ve unfortunately become an expert on grief and loss through personal experiences of five years of infertility, having a child diagnosed with a disability, and the demise of my spouse and Mom simultaneously. I’ve learned that grief is an individualized journey that sometimes resembles a rollercoaster. Fortunately, I have rebuilt myself with the help of faith and personal determination. I believe healing is possible when one accepts, works, and adapts a healthy mindset. My experiences and professional expertise as an Occupational Therapist, a Certified Life/Parent Coach, and Grief Counselor helped me in my journey. Since then, I’ve been able to support others experiencing similar circumstances. My mission is to empower and bring awareness to grief and loss. Ensure society understands that grief is a process that can arise from any significant loss, including death, loss of control, loss of the "perfect" child envisioned, secondary losses, and more. I am here to inspire & enable others to move from loss and pain into a hopeful and fulfilling future. My mission is to empower others to laugh and live again despite the pain. Turn feelings of despair into hope and a fulfilling life.

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