Dealing with the Loss of a Grandparent as a Child
The loss of a grandparent can be particularly hard for young children, especially ones that might be too young to really grasp what has happened.
In addition to being a difficult time of loss for you, the whole funeral process can be both overwhelming and unfamiliar to a child. They may be looking for the comfort of a beloved relative who can no longer physically provide it in those unsettling times.
Fortunately, concerned parents and caregivers have begun making a heartwarming effort to memorialize grandparents. They have adopted creative ways that help children retain their cherished memories for years to come.
Here are some ideas that we’ve found particularly touching to help your children feel and remember the love that their grandparents shared with them.
Four Encouraging Ideas to Aid a Child’s Mourning Process
- Create a memory box
Purchase a small wooden box at a craft store, and help your children decorate it with drawings or stickers that remind them of their grandparent. Attach a photo of the grandparent and child to the top of the box.
When the box has been decorated, fill it with tokens and mementos that remind your child of times spent together with their grandparents. Perhaps they have saved shells that the two of them collected on a trip to the beach, or maybe you’ve saved ticket stubs from an event or tourist visit that you’ve shared.
Encourage your child to place items in the box that bring back happy memories of them with their grandparent, and when they are feeling lonely, they can visit the box and touch all those things that made their time together special.
- Have a shirt sewn into a pillow
If you still have access to a shirt that your child’s grandparent wore often, have someone sew their shirt into a pillow. You might even include a special note or phrase that your child would hear their grandparent say, which you can have either embroidered directly onto the shirt itself or placed on a fabric square in the pocket if the shirt is collared.
Explain to your child that whenever they miss their grandparent, they can give them a hug by squeezing their pillow.
- Make a photo collage
There is a high probability that you have many wonderful pictures of your child with their grandparent, so use this as a way to both sort through your photos and display them proudly.
Have your child select their favorite photos of their grandparent, and assist them in gluing the photos together in a picture frame. (Don’t forget to make duplicates of these photos to also have a pristine copy for yourself.)
Encourage your child to discuss their choices and the memories associated with the photos, and talk about how they felt when the photos were being taken.
- Write a grandparent story journal
Depending on the age of your child, this might be more of your project than theirs. If your children are extremely young, take an opportunity to write down some of your own memories of your child with their grandparent in a blank notebook. For slightly older children, you can write down the stories as they’re dictated to you, and for children that are of writing age, you can discuss the stories and help your child write them down.
Children, Emotional Development and Family Bonding
Above all, the most important part of helping children cope with the loss of a grandparent is keeping that grandparent’s memory alive, rather than removing the grandparent from the conversation for fear of making your little one sad.
Tell stories, share memories, and display pictures of your children with their grandparent, and be sure to address any age-appropriate questions they might have with honest and accessible answers.
They are grieving, and you are too—instead of keeping your feelings from them, use this as an opportunity to teach your children about emotions and to grow together as a family.
At Morris Family Services, we recognize that losing a grandparent is a significant event in every family member’s life, and we are here to help and support each and every one of you, no matter what the age, at this delicate time.