how does a three-year-old deal with loss?

She doesn’t.

At least, mine doesn’t. She’s an emotion avoider, and as such, she has not once asked where her beloved Bapa is when we’re at the house. She doesn’t look at his pictures or respond to mention of him. I had preferred that she not be at the house before his body was taken, but she was. I needn’t have worried, though, as she resolutely did not run to his bed, did not plead with him to wake up and play with her, did not try to lie in his bed or kiss his hand.

She knew he was gone. And she didn’t want to deal with it.

I was super prepared to talk about Bapa being gone, Bapa getting sick, Bapa returning to the great beyond or whatever. I did not prepare for my child to simply avoid the topic all together. I should have, thinking about it, as that is M’s way of dealing. So now I’m wondering if I should try to bring it up with her, or talk about it (even with her ignoring me), or just leave it alone?

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

5 thoughts on “how does a three-year-old deal with loss?”

  1. Children process at a whole other level than we do as adults. I’d just let it be with M or tell her a story about how grampa squirrel grew old after he had spent many happy seasons gathering and hiding acorns in the beautiful tall woods by the lake. At last he got tired and sick and his family loved and cared for him, but finally he had to leave to hunt for acorns in the great wide world where he finds a new life and where he was happy but we can not yet go. Many more details can be brought in that any child could relate to. Children do much better learning about anything thru stories…. blessings on your beloved Grandfather.

  2. I’m no expert, but I would keep talking about him. Not forcing it, but just mentioning that you miss him, that it’s sad that he died but you still love him, that certain things remind you of him, etc. I wouldn’t worry if she doesn’t ask questions, but I would keep the topic of conversation accessible, if that makes sense.

    1. Sounds like good advice. Today she did finally say, “Bapa went away and mommy’s crying” but I felt it was a bit forced because she wanted me to sing a song about being happy and I couldn’t. It’s hard to let go of my preconceived notions about what grieving should look like in a child.

  3. You’ve had some good advice here. Little ones will deal with loss differently than we do. Let her follow her own process and don’t stop talking about him and sharing your feelings. She doesn’t know how to feel and will look to you for cues. (hugs) I know this is so hard. I’m so sorry.

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