Parent Resources

Grieving Parents Recommended Reading
  • Ilene L. Dillon. Exploring Fear With Your Children. Enchante Publishing, 1994.
  • Doka, Ken. Children Mourning, Mourning Children. edited by Hemisphere Pub., 1995.
  • Ferguson, Dorothy. Little Footprints: A Special Baby’s Memory Book. Centering Corporation, 1989.
  • Fitzgerald, Helen. The Grieving Child: A Parent's Guide. Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • Goldman, Linda. Life & Loss--A Guide to Help Grieving Children. Accelerated Development, Inc. 1994.
  • Heegaard, Marge Eaton. Drawing Together to Learn about Feelings. Fairview Press, 2003.
  • Krementz, Jill. How It Feels When a Parent Dies. Knopf, 1901.
  • Kroen, William C. Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Loved One: A Guide for Grownups. Free Spirit Pub. 1996.
  • Lord, Janet Harris. No Time for Goodbyes. Pathfinder Publishing of California, 1987.
  • Nussbaum, RN, MS, Kathy. Preparing the Children. Compassion Books, 1998.
  • Schaefer, Dan & Lyons, Christine. How Do We Tell the Children? Newmarket Press, 1993.
  • Seibert, D., Drolet, J., Fetro, J. Helping Children Live with Death and Loss. Southern University Press, 2003.
  • Wolfelt, PhD, Alan. A Child’s View of Grief: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Counselors. Companion Press, 2004
Parents and Caregivers Program

Your first concern is your children. How do you help them in the midst of your own grief? We can offer help to you and your children. Your town may be close enough to access the services of Pathfinders or other grieving children's program. If your local area does not have a support program, we are hopeful the information on this website will be helpful; particularly the recommended reading lists and resource links.

Pathfinders: Support for Grieving Children (to be referenced as Pathfinders) is a program of Hospice of Eastern Maine.

Pathfinders focus is directed towards the grieving child; however, the philosophy of the program is to support the family as a whole. The program was designed to provide support for children between the ages of 3 and 18 and their parents/caregivers. Children attending

Pathfinders must be accompanied by at least one family member/caregiver. We require this because children grieve differently from adults and the role of the parent/caregiver is to understand how to be a support to the child while experiencing their own grief. Teens attending the program may be allowed to participate without a family member present if the loss they are experiencing was a friend with whom there was little or no acquaintance with the family.
The role of the facilitator within each group is to ensure every member receives respect, feels safe and comfortable when choosing to share with the group, has the opportunity to be heard, recognizes, develops and applies what he/she already knows as individual strengths and is empowered to make decisions relative to daily living.

The child's developmental age and maturity, the type of loss and previous experience with loss are all factors that influence how a child grieves.

Children grieve differently than adults

  • Children experience grief, as do adults, with minds, bodies and spirits. Children experience physical symptoms as well as rapid changes in thoughts and feelings.
  • Children may not be able to put words to their grief. They may still be learning to name and describe their feelings; THEREFORE, children grieve through their SOCIAL INTERACTIONS and in their PLAY.
  • Children grieve in "spurts and stops". A child who is grieving can quickly change from being sad, angry or frustrated to wanting to play.
  • The child’s developmental age and maturity, the type of loss and previous experience with loss are all factors that influence how a child grieves.
  • Sometimes children seem unaffected by grief to adults because they do not fully understand the permanence of a loss or its meaning to them. When children feel overwhelmed by intense feelings, they may naturally make their world safe by distancing themselves physically or emotionally by pretending or by denying the reality of the loss.
  • Children are sensitive about being different. Grief and the intense feelings that go along with it may make children feel different and isolated from their friends.

Children are quick to blame themselves and think their thoughts or wishes about someone made them die (magical thinking). They also think they could have done something to prevent the death. Often times children will not disclose their feelings of self-blame.

What Children Need to Heal from A Death

Children Need:

To acknowledge that the loved one has died

  • Even if the children may have known the loved one was going to die, it still may come as a surprise to them. It may take children several months to acknowledge the death. They need a meaningful way to say goodbye.

To remember

Healing involves the development of a new relationship which is one of memory rather than presence. Children may get the message that it is best to forget and move on, especially if adults avoid talking about the person who died and avoid talking about their own memories. The only way for children to find hope and healing is by embracing their memories, if not allowed to do so, it could result in long term complications effecting the child’s physical and mental well-being.

Holidays and other special days- Find specific ways to honor the memories of the person who died on holidays and special days. Children need to know that the significance of their loved one did not end with his/her death.

To feel and express the pain of death

It is often believe that time alone will provide healing following a significant death. Children are quickly moved away from uncomfortable feelings, and adults tend to keep themselves busy to avoid facing the pain of death. However, it is moving toward the pain that ultimately heals. Children express pain differently at various ages and at different stages of the grieving process. Their reactions also depend on who died, how long the individual had been sick, and how prepared they were for the death.

Integrate the death into their lives

The death of a family member forever changes a child’s understanding of the world. Healing requires that the child find meaning in the death, develop a new self-identity and reinvest his/her emotional energy in other relationships.

  • Search for meaning-struggle will help child gain wisdom and personal growth.
  • New self-identity
  • New roles within the family.
  • Reinvesting emotional energy in others- afraid to love anyone again.
Resource Links for Parents