Harriet recently lost her dad and had to support her daughter through the experience, as well as dealing with her own grief. Here, she gives her practical advice on helping your child after the death of someone they’re close to.
Here’s what Harriet says in the video if you can’t watch it…
Hi, morning. The weather’s good… I’m Harriet. I’m making my first video which is based on my own personal experiences, which doesn’t make me an expert at all in the field of what I’ll be sharing or exploring with you today, but I hope someone might either gain information or advice and acquire some interest and insight into something you may have not also been exposed to, or will be exposed to, as a parent.
So regrettably, my dad passed recently, which was a shock to all of us because of course he was a dad.
He was a grandfather to my child – his only grandchild – and he was a parent.
And while my mum was still consoling me on how on earth this could have happened, like my mum was doing for me as her child, it was my job to find the words to tell my own child. So I’m gonna talk to you through a bit about me, the background I’m from and the steps I took through this whole process up until now.
So I would describe myself as a lone parent.
I come from a non-traditional small home; considering I’m of African-Caribbean heritage, in my immediate family there’s only 6 of us including my late father.
Me and my child live together and there doesn’t tend to be visitors except from my immediate family every other weekend and that’s the facts.
So in my situation as I mentioned I’m of an African-Caribbean heritage, therefore immediately news came out that my dad had passed.
There was an array of sympathisers at my once very quiet home from the crack of dawn ’til very late into the evening.
My mum was now staying with me and my child, so everyone came of course to sympathise with her.
My step 1: give yourself time.
You might be grieving and that’s understandable with loss. There is no need to feel pressure because things are not how they usually are. Don’t beat yourself up about it. And I think that’s what I did. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
Just sometimes in life, one might have to respect cultural norms and although you might rather people leave so your child could fall asleep at their usual bedtime, loss might not be sympathetic to that.
And if you feel you are still grieving, grieve for some time. My ‘some time’ led to 2 weeks. It took me 2 weeks to break the news to my child who, at this point, had already read the sympathy cards displayed around the house, had overheard adult conversations and suspected something from the number of guests and bouquets of flowers coming through the door.
However, no matter the child’s age and competency to the matter, it’s important — I feel — that they hear it explained from you, their parent, and not solely through the grapevine.
I told my child after school — we went to a really great diner. We spoke about Grandad’s passing in the context of heaven as we are church-goers.
My child pleasantly took in the discussion we were having. [She] had a few questions but as I suspected was greatly aware that Grandad had passed.
My step 2: getting children involved in the send-off.
We were thankfully gifted with a book from a local children’s charity and I’ll show it to you now… a book written by Diana Crossley.
And the book is ‘Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine’. It offers practical and sensitive support for bereaved children.
So with this in mind, I adapted some of the activities to fit the age of my child. With the help of large paper, glitter and felt pens, we went crazy and we created a mural, which has since been stuck on our kitchen door in loving memory of Grandad.
We later had a service in London that my child attended and my child had their work showcased for the guests at that service to see.
Disappointingly, although a hard decision to make, my child didn’t come to the funeral service abroad. There were too many complex practical issues regarding a child coming.
So in the end, my child stayed with a close friend who also had a child of the same age.
My step : a settling-in period
I arranged a 2-3 week settling-in period with the person who would care for my child for the 2 weeks we were abroad.
On leaving, I left postcards for each day I was away with some gifts inside them (I’ll show you the postcards in the end) for my child to open whilst I was away.
While I was away, the school was informed and therefore heavily involved. Similarly, I was able to Facetime every day and the person my child stayed with sent pictures and videos.
So it really comforted me and I’m sure it did the same for my baby.
These are the tips based on a page out of my life.
Just for clarity, I don’t think age makes us any more experienced, or immune or understanding to loss. But age might heighten a person’s exposure to losing a loved one.
My loss was not anything I ever considered would arise at this stage of my parenting. My recommendation is for immediate practical support for families with bereaved children under 10 years old, not solely bereavement counselling services and crisis numbers.
Thank you for watching — I hope that was useful, and I’ll just show you some of the postcards that I left for my child.