Helping Kids with Anxiety Cope with Loss

Photo of Caucasian mother sitting on a grey couch holding her grieving daughter in a tight hug. Photo could represent the grief this girl feels from the loss of a friend and the need for online solution focused brief therapy in Illinois or Florida.

As parents we do our best to shield our kids from the harsh realities of the world. But as much as we try, we can’t always protect our kids from experiencing the pain of loss. And for kids with anxiety, loss can feel especially overwhelming to handle.

Whether it’s the loss of a beloved pet, a childhood friend, or the loss of a family member, kids are often unequipped to deal with the feelings of grief and sadness.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical strategies and compassionate approaches to help children confront their anxiety in the face of loss.

Loss Can Be Especially Tough on Kids with Anxiety

For children already wrestling with anxiety, loss can feel like an extra weight added to their already heavy backpack of worries. Anxiety often makes everyday challenges seem more daunting, and when faced with loss, those challenges can ramp up.

One reason loss hits kids with anxiety harder is because it shakes their sense of security. Anxiety often stems from a fear of the unknown or a lack of control, and loss magnifies these feelings by introducing uncertainty and change. They may find it hard to make sense of the new reality without the comforting predictability they relied on before. This uncertainty can fuel their anxiety.

Children with anxiety may also experience loss more intensely because they tend to be highly sensitive to emotions. While some children may be able to bounce back quickly from setbacks, those with anxiety may find it harder to shake off the lingering sadness or fear that accompanies loss.

6 Ways to Help Kids with Anxiety Cope with Loss

Thankfully there are things you can do to help your anxious child manage their emotions and grief in a healthy way. Here are some suggestions:

Share what they can handle

Kids have big imaginations. They can often imagine a scenario that is far scarier than the current reality. While you may think speaking openly to kids about a pet or loved one’s illness and impending death will cause anxiety, very often not speaking with them will cause them even more.

Just be sure to share facts and information that are age appropriate. For instance, a 12-year-old may understand the concept of hospice care while a 5-year-old may not. With younger children, share the simple facts of death and dying.

Here are some additional steps to consider when sharing news of an impending loss with a child:

  • Choose the right time and place

Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can talk without distractions. Pick a time when your child is calm and not already dealing with a lot of stress or anxiety.

  • Use clear and simple language

Explain the situation in a way that your child can understand, using clear and simple language appropriate for their age. Avoid using euphemisms or vague language that might confuse them.

  • Be honest

It’s important to be honest with your child about what’s happening, but you don’t need to give them more information than they can handle. Provide enough details to help them understand the situation without overwhelming them.

  • Validate their feelings

Let your child know that it’s okay to feel scared, sad, or anxious about the impending loss. Validate their emotions and assure them that you’re there to support them through this difficult time.

  • Offer reassurance

Reassure your child that they’re loved and that there are people who will take care of them no matter what happens. Let them know that it’s normal to feel worried, but that they’re not alone.

  • Encourage questions

Give your child an opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns. Be patient and listen attentively to what they have to say and provide honest answers to the best of your ability.

  • Provide support

Offer ongoing support and reassurance in the days and weeks following the conversation. Check in with your child regularly to see how they’re feeling and offer opportunities for them to talk about their emotions.

Use children’s books

It can be difficult finding just the right words to explain death and dying to a young child. At these times, children’s books about illness, dying and bereavement can be a tremendous help.  Ask your local library for recommendations. They are likely to have some excellent recommendations for you.

Why are books so effective? When kids see characters in stories experiencing similar emotions and challenges related to loss, they may feel less alone in their own grief. Books can offer a sense of validation, showing children that their feelings are normal and understandable.

Additionally, children’s books often present complex themes in a way that is accessible and easy for young minds to understand. Through stories, children can learn about different coping strategies, explore the concept of resilience, and gain insights into how others have navigated loss.

Lastly, children’s books can serve as a bridge to difficult conversations. Sometimes, it can be challenging for adults to find the right words to explain loss to children, especially if they’re grappling with their own grief. Books provide a starting point for these conversations, offering age-appropriate language and illustrations that can help kids make sense of their feelings and ask questions.

Encourage their honest feelings

Loss can cause people of all ages to completely shut down emotionally. Emotional numbness is a form of denial. While it’s okay for a child to take some space after the initial loss, you will need to help them feel their feelings about it.

Allow your child to express their feelings without judgment and validate their emotions by acknowledging that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or scared. By creating a safe space for them to share their thoughts and emotions, you can help them process their grief in a healthy way.

Encourage them to journal, write, draw, paint, dance or whatever they feel like doing to express their grief and emotions. It’s important that they learn how to process their feelings now while they’re young as this is an important skill to bring into adulthood.

Accept their honest feelings

Like adults, kids may go through a range of emotions from anger to sadness, guilt to shame. Often, they’ll cycle through the same feelings many times. It’s natural and okay for your child to feel any emotion they may have. Let them know this is normal and support them at every step of their grieving process.

Encourage them to seek comfort from trusted adults, friends, or supportive community members. Remind them that they are not alone in their grief, and that it’s natural to seek support from those who care about them.

By offering your reassurance and comfort, you validate your child’s emotions, encourage emotional expression, build trust, and normalize their experience. These are all important steps in helping them to cope with loss and navigate the grieving process.

Maintain routines and rituals

Another helpful strategy is to maintain routines and rituals as much as possible. Whether it’s sticking to regular mealtimes, bedtime routines, or favorite family traditions, maintaining familiar rituals can help children feel grounded and secure during loss.

Here are some additional reasons:

  • Predictability

Having a regular schedule gives kids a sense of predictability and stability in their lives. When they know what to expect each day, it can make them feel safer and more secure, which is important when they’re feeling anxious.

  • Distraction

Following a routine keeps kids busy and occupied, which can distract them from dwelling too much on their feelings of loss and sadness. Engaging in regular activities can give them something positive to focus on instead.

  • Sense of control

Loss can make kids feel like everything is out of their control. But sticking to a schedule gives them a sense of control over their daily lives. They can see that there are still things they can do and decisions they can make, even when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

  • Healthy habits

Routines often include things like eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity. These habits are important for overall well-being, and they can help kids manage their anxiety and emotions better.

  • Social support

Following a schedule can also involve spending time with family and friends, which provides important social support. Being around loved ones who care about them can help kids feel less alone and more supported during a difficult time.

Seek help

Your child may benefit from speaking with a professional therapist who can offer tools and coping strategies. You’ll want to look for someone who’s not only qualified but who you and your child feel comfortable working with.

A skilled therapist can help your child process their loss in healthy ways. The goal should always be to empower your child to navigate their grief more effectively and build resilience for the future.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida!

If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.

And effective 2024, I am now licensed in Florida! For parents in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Destin, Crestview, Coral Gables, Weston, Parkland, Naples, Marco Island, and Pinecrest, I have immediate openings.

Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.