CHILDREN’S GRIEF – WORDS THAT CAN HELP AND THOSE THAT CAN HURT

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By Mary M. Lyles, MSW, LCSW

Daughter holding a parent's folded American flag with a woman's arms wrapped around her.

WORDS THAT CAN HELP

Offering support to a grieving child can begin with a simple statement or open-ended question. Here are some conversation starters:

  • I’m sorry your mom/dad/sister died.
  • What was your dad/mom/brother like?
  • Tell me about your__________.
  • What was his favorite food?
  • What do you miss the most?
  • What is the hardest part for you?
  • What is the hardest time of day for you?
  • I cannot know how you feel, but I remember how I felt when my __________ died.
  • I care about you.
  • I care about how you are feeling.
  • Is there anything I can do in the classroom to help?
  • Is there anything in the classroom you would like to change to feel more comfortable?
  • Would you like to talk about it?
  • I’m available at this time, if you would like to come by to talk.
  • Whenever you want to talk about it, I’m here for you.
  • I’m thinking about you especially today because I’m aware that today is your mother’s birthday (anniversary of the death, your birthday, etc).
  • I’m here to listen if you want to talk, or just spend time together if you don’t want to talk.
  • When is your recital (game, rehearsal, etc.)? Would it be okay if I stop by?

pensiveboy

WORDS THAT CAN HURT

The following are a few of the potentially harmful comments that are often offered to children grieving the loss of a parent:

  • I know just how you feel.
  • I know just how you feel…my dog died last year.
  • Lick your wounds and move on.
  • You’ll get over it.
  • It will be okay.
  • Don’t think about it.
  • You are better off without him.
  • Don’t cry.
  • It’s your fault.
  • You drove your father to drink.
  • If only you had ___________________.
  • Tears won’t bring her back.
  • Be strong.
  • Forget about it.
  • You are the man/woman of the house now.
  • You should feel….(proud, relieved, happy, sad, etc.) © 2004 Mary M. Lyles, MSW, LCSW
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