Creative Child

Dealing With Loss

by Deborah Song


Nor, is the concept of death easy for her 3-year-old mind to grasp. When great grandma passed away, my husband and I explained to her that she went to heaven. (It’s important not to use euphemisms, like ‘fallen asleep’ or ‘taken away.’ But life after death in heaven is our belief so we don’t consider reference to heaven a euphemism). The morning of the funeral, we explained that we were going to say good-bye to grandma for the last time.

When we drove up to the wrought iron gates of Forrest Lawn with sprawling green lawns that stretched upwards for miles, my youngest daughter looked at me quizzically and asked, “This is heaven?”

Her little, or rather big mind, has been working over time lately to connect disconnected dots. She hasn’t been able to verbalize all of her fears, doubts or confusions, but they’ve manifested in visible ways.

For the past few weeks, she’s been refusing to go to school, saying she will miss me, becoming frantic when I leave. I’ve wondered if perhaps this was her way of expressing the fear that I, too, may not come back.

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One particular morning, I stayed with her a while in class and held up her face while looking into her tear-filled eyes. She didn’t want me to leave. I took her outside and walked with her. I took her back in class and held her hand while the teacher read a story. I helped them distribute the crafts for class. Afterwards, she looked at me and reluctantly told me I could go now but to be sure to come back to pick her up after nap time.

It has since become a routine we’ve repeated for two weeks now. While I am concerned I may be disrupting class, or setting a bad precedent for future good-byes, the inkling that she may be grappling with a concept too complicated to dissect makes me stay.

I’ve read many articles and books - and even written about how to help children cope with loss. But none of it is that comforting, to be honest. We can’t promise our children that we will always be around. No guarantee that one day mommy and daddy won’t be gone too. No way to video-chat with great grandma and tell her it’s time to eat.

The only thing I can do is to hold her a little more, be patient with her, answer questions, and listen to her as she copes with the bewildering reality that is loss.

I figure if time heals all wounds then it’s more time I need to give her. 

More on dealing with loss here.

Deborah Song is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master's in journalism from New York University. She is the founder of, and is passionate about helping parents find better work-life balance and proper support through community.

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