Feelings of intense grief can disorient and immobilize a person.
Because of this, it is not emotionally safe for everyone in the family to feel intense grief at the same time.
Kids will often hold back on their grief, trying to keep the family functioning, until the surviving parent and/or other siblings have made it through this period of grieving.
When this is happening it is in the child’s best interest that their parent work on their own grieving.
To urge the child to grieve at this point is setting him/her up for an emotionally unsafe situation and could complicate the grieving process.
Sometimes the child is afraid to grieve.
On one hand, you can feel out of control when you’re grieving, and that can be scary.
On the other hand grieving brings about a sense of finality to a death.
There is an irrational belief that if you can hold off the feelings of grief, the deceased isn’t 100% dead.
With these issues in mind, here are a few suggestions for the surviving parent:
1) Tend to your own grieving process
2) try to re-establish the security of routines as soon as possible
3) acknowledge the death by mentioning it matter-of factly whenever appropriate, and
4) help the child re-define the relationship with the deceased parent,
i.e., “This parent used to be a part of my everyday life.
There are some other thing you can do as well. Visiting the grave as a family helps demonstrate the finality of the deceased as well as giving a place to connect with them.
Doing things to commemorate the diseased can also be helpful like making a small “shrine” on the mantle or naming a star after someone who has just passed.
Now this parent can be acknowledged for the role he/she played in my younger days and can remain a fond memory and inspiration.”
This can be done by reminiscing, putting together a photo album, celebrating the parent’s birthday, etc.