Chapter 5: Supporting children and youth
I try my best to answer my son’s questions and to provide reassurance. I’m glad he’s asking about things, even though it is sometimes hard to know how to answer or what to say.
I think my parents meant well, but they didn’t tell me how my older brother died. They were trying to protect me, but it made me angry when I found out the truth years later.
It is hard to witness the grief of your children. Your may want to protect them from the hard things in life, but in reality, the best way to support them is through open communication. You may feel hesitant to talk to them about suicide loss or worry that talking about it might cause them distress. Children seem to do better when they are provided with clear and honest information that is tailored to their maturity and personality.
To learn more about answering questions and speaking with children about suicide, visit Supporting a grieving child: When death is from suicide, at KidsGrief.ca.
Supporting grieving children can be hard when you are in the midst of your own grief. You may be afraid that it would be too hard for them to see your feelings, but children can be confused if they don’t see an emotional response in the adults around them. Children might also hesitate to share feelings and ask questions because they fear upsetting you.
Children are both curious and intuitive. They can sense when something significant is happening in their environment, especially when it involves you. Below are three important reasons to include children by giving them age-appropriate information. Roll your mouse over each box to see more.
They may think they are responsible for your sadness.
If they sense that you are sad or acting differently, they may try to be especially well-behaved and helpful, or act happy, thinking this will make you “all better.”
They may internalize their emotions so that you are unaware.
It is likely that they will worry, perhaps in silence, about what has happened.
They may become fearful.
They may imagine something worse than the reality. They may also fear that you will die.
Although you may also be grieving, your children will benefit from you creating time and space to support them in their grief. This can be challenging, but also rewarding.
It’s important that children understand and believe that you are there for them. They will also learn that even when things are difficult, there is value in sharing emotions, asking for support, and learning how to support others. This can help them develop the resilience they will need throughout their lives.