How to Help Kids Deal With Grief Related to a Pandemic

Grief Related to a PandemicWhen it comes to kids and the Covid-19 outbreak, I have two major concerns related to how we help kids not only endure the current situation, but move forward in a healthy way.

My first concern is the impact that the stress of this outbreak will have on kids, and particularly on children who have already experienced another trauma in their young lives. We will deal with this topic in future articles here on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

My second major concern is how we prepare kids for grief related to a pandemic. On a smaller scale, there are likely many kids who are currently experiencing grief related to the loss of their normal routine. More importantly, given the daily projections of deaths which may be experienced related to this outbreak, it is likely that there will be hundreds of thousands of kids who face the very real prospect of grieving the loss of someone they love either already or in the very near future.

For many kids, one of their first experiences of grief relates to the loss of grandparent. Given that Covid-19 appears to have a disproportionate impact on the elderly, many kids may face that task sooner than they would have otherwise. We live in a grief avoiding culture, but unfortunately, we will all be faced with grief in the coming weeks.

The following represent nine things are key to helping sa child through the grief process. We will dig into these in more detail in the days and weeks to come, but the purpose of this article is just to introduce the concept so that you can help the kids in your life.

  1. Be Honest. Tell kids the truth in concrete age appropriate language. If you don’t tell kids the truth, they will fill in the blanks themselves or they will assume that this happened because of something they did.
  2. Build a Relationship. Be a presence, but don’t smother the child. Work to build and maintain their trust so that they can talk to you when they’re ready.
  3. Active Listening. For kids, telling their story is part of the healing process. They need a safe place to share their feelings. Listen without judgment and without trying to “fix” the problem.
  4. Offer Empathy. Empathy is entering another’s pain with understanding, but not feeling. They need your empathy but not your sympathy. Try to see things from their point of view. Understand that their journey is just that – THEIR journey.
  5. Understand That Every Child Grieves Their Own Way. Send the message that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is not your job to push them through grief, or pull them through the process. Your job is to walk along side them and to be there if they need you.
  6. Validate Their Emotions. Don’t minimize their loss or their feelings associated with that loss. Crying is ok and a necessary part of grieving. Resist the urge to offer a tissue or a hug to “make things better.”
  7. Give the Child Choices. Wherever possible, give the child agency in their own life and the option to make choices. Giving them choices empowers kids and gives them a sense of control that they’ve likely lost after a death.
  8. Provide Structure and Flexibility. Kids need structure and routine – especially when they are grieving. Faced with a changing world, they don’t want to constantly worry about what’s next. Changing rules only adds to the chaos they are already feeling. Remember, though, that what they need during a time of grief is stability – not rigidity.
  9. Offer Hope. Grief is often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness. Offer them hope for the future. Their life will never be the same as before the loss, but they will eventually find a new normal.

Here are some activities and information we have featured previously here on Hope 4 Hurting Kids that may also help:

You can also check out our Grief Help Center.

For more information and resources related to Covid-19, please visit our Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Resource Page.

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Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families. Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids' other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son's soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship). You can reach Wayne at