How to Help My Grieving Toddler

Tucked in bed and fast asleep, my two-year-old slept through the knock on the door that was a police officer announcing the death of my husband. The next morning, I had to wake her with the sad news that her daddy had died. But with the bad news, I shared the hope of eternity. Because her daddy had placed his faith in Jesus Christ for his salvation, he was not dead but alive in heaven.

For days, weeks, and months to come, my daughter repeated the news, “Daddy died and he’s in heaven.” Her quick conclusion to a life-changing moment was in many ways a relief to me. I was grieving and had older children who were also not responding in the same way, and I knew that it would take her years to digest what had happened. Eventually, her box of grief would open, and the emotions of this loss would seep into her soul, but in the moment, grief was too heavy for my toddler to carry.

The beautiful thing about toddlers and little ones is they package grief in a way that we all want to, really quickly. A toddler’s ability to understand loss will increase as they grow, but in the beginning, their inability to grieve could increase your own sorrow. Your perspective is greater than their maturity which brings with it a weight they are unable to carry. Not only have they lost their daddy but the opportunity to have a relationship with him. Older children lose their dads while toddlers lose a daddy. Mothers of fatherless toddlers will grieve the loss of dad for them until they are able to grieve with them.

10 Things Moms Need to Understand About Their Grieving Toddler:

  1. Mom sets the tone. You will and should grieve openly but carefully with your children.
  2. Mom will carry the grief of her child. The child should not carry the grief of the mom.
  3. Sad is not bad and it’s okay to cry. Children will be sad but are limited in understanding and maturity.
  4. Routine is necessary and gives security in the chaos. A basic schedule for the day including nap time, playtime, and bedtime lets the child know what is expected.
  5. Keep life as normal as possible when things are transitioning to a new normal.
  6. Give hope and assurance that all will be well.
  7. Remember and talk about daddy. This is a healthy practice for all who are grieving.
  8. Set up a support system. You will need practical, emotional, and spiritual help at this time and so will your child.
  9. Be the parent. Friendship comes when the parenting years are over.
  10. Toddlers need a mom more than ever. Stay in the saddle, and remember, your toddler has lost their earthly dad.

Moms carry grief for their children. But just know that as you carry this weight for your child, God is carrying you.

  • “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV).
  • “The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31 NIV).
  • Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4 ESV).