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Be Strong, Don’t Cry
Sometimes when children are facing grief or loss, they are told to, “Be strong, don’t cry.” These words may seem benign, especially when said by a well-meaning adult, but they actually imply to the grieving child that expressing their sadness is “weak,” and that their grief is not normal. Children experiencing grief should be given the opportunity to grieve in their own way, and need to know that the adults in their lives support them. Here are a few things to keep in mind when interacting with mourning children:

  • We help children by considering them and respecting them as mourners.” (Phyllis R. Silverman, PhD) – Think about how the child feels, and recognize that they do not process their feelings the same way you do. Respect their sadness and trust that they know how they feel, perhaps better than anyone – even if they cry a lot, and especially if they don’t.

 

 

  • If the child seems frustrated over not knowing how to express themselves, provide an outlet. You show your support by making yourself available, both emotionally and in physical presence.

 

  • Grief and loss therapy can be extremely beneficial. If the child exhibits an extreme change in their behavior, or expresses feelings of deep depression and suicidal ideation, please contact a mental health professional.

 

Remember: although a child’s grief may be painful for adults to witness, it is an important part of the healing process. Instead of telling the child that strong people hold back tears, show them that expressing their sadness in healthy ways is true courage.

Dr. Michael Clatch, Psy. D
Posted in: Grief and Loss
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