While at the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Gloria Horsley connected with Julie Lockhart, who operates a non-profit in southern Oregon called Winter Spring. This organization helps parents tend to their children after a parent loss. Father loss comes with a host of issues. Kids who lose a father lose a sense of their identity. The remaining parent or guardians don’t know how to deal with that kind of grief. Lockhart recommends honesty and openness to what your child is experiencing. Children grieve in doses, and often try to protect the remaining parent.
Kids often don’t show their grief, although they may be grieving. It’s scary to see a parent that sad. A lot of the parents say that the kids don’t want them to cry, often because they’re afraid. What does it really mean when a parent isn’t strong? Lockhart has three key tips for parents. First, find support and know there are support groups around the country.
Seek Support First
There are online and in-person support groups—one or both might be best for your unique situation. Kids need each other when they’re grieving. Secondly, parents need to understand their own grief and be able to help themselves heal before they can help their kids. Finally, normalizing grief is important because parents, like it or not, are modeling grief behavior for their children. These lessons might stick for the rest of the child’s life.
Father loss is an extremely painful experience, but one that many children have survived. How you, as a caretaker, handle this grief is critical. Children need peer support, a caregiver who’s transparent, and a safe space where they can heal and address their grief in their own ways and on their own timeline.