Helping Infants and Toddlers Heal From Grief – Child Grief Education

Child Grief Education: How Do I Help a Grieving Baby?

Even though a baby may not be as mentally developed as a child or adult, a baby can still grieve.  In past articles, we discussed attachment disorders that can result from poor parenting and bond forming.  Since a baby can form bonds and love, a baby can also grieve.  It saddens many to think of a grieving baby, but when a baby loses his mother or father or any primary caregiver, the baby will grieve.

Child grief education
Child grief education

In regards to infants, grief counselors should encourage primary caregivers to assure the child that basic care and needs will be met.  This requires constant attention and alot of love.  In addition to keeping to schedule and offering the basic care, simply holding the infant, loving the infant and keeping the infant close will help the baby grieve in a healthy fashion.  It will help the infant overcome the loneliness and confusion of losing a parent.
Toddlers are a little more difficult to care for than infants because the bond with the loss parent was longer and stronger.  Still the first priority is the same as with infants.  Toddlers will need constant love and attention and the same provision of care they received before the death of the parent.  Three extra things with a grieving toddler, however, should be considered.  First, the toddler may regress.  Regression in regards to toilet training, lack of sleeping and less independence are all ways a toddler lets adults know they are sad.  They demand attention to help with the grief that consumes their little heart.  Secondly, toddlers need to be spoken to in concrete language.  If they ask where “is mommy” or “Uncle Jack”, one should respond in concrete description.  Toddlers do not understand euphemisms and need to be told if someone died in clear language.  Telling a toddler that daddy went “bye bye” will confuse him.  He needs to be told that daddy’s body stopped working and he will not be coming back.  Of course, compassion and a lot of hugs may be needed but this is best for toddler grief support.  Finally, try to keep the toddler as close to his regular schedule as possible.  Change can be very destructive to the toddler.  The toddler needs to know life will go on and that his needs will still be met.
If you are interested in child grief education, please review the program.
(Information for this article was found in”Companioning the Grieving Child” by Alan Wolfelt, PhD)
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C