17 answers

How to Help Daughter Cope with the Loss of Her Father

I would like to know if putting my daughter through grief counseling would help with her pain of the loss of her father.. He did on feb.13, 2006 and she was only 3 years old. She is going to be turning 5 in a week and is still having some behavior issues. I tried talking with a behavioral counseler through her school, but felt it wasn't really helping her.. I just don't know how to help her through this.. Any advice would be helpful...

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I just wanted to thank eeryone for their kind words and advice. I am going to check out some of the places a few of you gave me.. I will keep everyone updated throughout the months...

Thank You
M. Mckenna

P.S. Merry christmas and happy new year to all of you..

More Answers

M. - I am so sorry to hear of you and your daughter's loss. I too lost my father when I was 12 years old. It was sudden and very traumatic for myself and the rest of the family. I never did receive any help w/processing this event until just recently (I am 35 yrs old). I would just encourage you to get your daughter the assistance she is asking for through her behavior. It is so important that children have the resources they need to understand and process through the feelings/thoughts they are having and may continue to have throughout their life. Death is very difficult and confusing, even when you are an adult. I now wish that I would have had some therapy at a young age - it may have changed my outlook on family, marriage, friendships, etcetera. Grief is such an individual process that no one can give you a one size fits all kind of approach. If one thing doesn't work, just keep trying - your daughter will thank you for it. I also agree with the others that you might want to seek some assistance for yourself in your grief as it may help you help your daughter with her process. Good luck! My thoughts are with you and your daughter. N.

1 mom found this helpful

hi....i'm so very sorry to hear about your loss. i couldn't even begin to imagine what you and your little girl are going thru. however, just as an observer, i would say grief counseling is a wonderful idea. especially since they continually deal with people who are suffering the same hardship as you and yours are facing. i'm no pro, but i would say give it a shot and see how effective it is...given it may take some time to really see..i don't see how it would hurt. god bless you and be with you and your daughter....you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Hi M.,

Let me first begin by saying how sorry I am for your loss and your daughter's loss. I believe that losing a parent at any age is both confusing and heartbreaking beyond words.

I lost my mother when I was 17 and she was only 39 to breast cancer. I am now 36 and a mother of one 2 year old and one on the way. I still to this day struggle with the loss of my mother. I never saw anyone at the time, but as I grow older now realize that this was a big mistake. Although your child is almost 5 (and not 17 as I was), I can only recommend to you that you do seek professional counseling for her (and you). The thought behind it is that it can never hurt and will only help. The other caution I give you is that it may take you 2 - 3 therapists before you and she find someone that you feel has a real connection. You'll know that within a few visits. Don't wait it out. If you don't feel it, then move onto the next one. Ask your pediatrician for a list of doctors that they recommend. Also check with your insurance company because you don't want to find out later that it's not covered.

Good luck to you and reach out to me if you ever need a friend.


My daughter was almost three when her dad left us. Although he did not pass she seemed to have been affected by it greatly. She did not see him very much the first year. She was sleep walking and screaming for her dad in her sleep. I took her to a therapist who told me he saw nothing wrong with her. I took her to another one that said the same thing. Her behavior had changed as well. I started spending more one on one time with her and although I was understanding to her feelings I showed her that the behavior she was exhibiting was not acceptable. I taught her to use her words and tell me what was going on. We can never truly understand our child's feelings. We just need to show them that we are there and we are listening. My daughter is now almost 11 and we are very close. She still comes to me and tells me everything that is going on in her life and when she needs something more from me. Good Luck. I hope things turn out well.

I lost my mother at a very young age. Through a lot of support and therapy I am now able to realize all those emotions and feelings I had when I was so young. My advice would be to you to number one, let your daughter know that even though she's acting out, you still love her and so does her daddy. I know acting out can certainly be inconvenient at times. You can not expect her not to be hurting terribly just as you are. She doesn't know how to deal with such big and powerful feelings. Together you can help her learn how to deal with her feelings in a more effective and healthy manner. You both need to have as much support as possible. Through a church group or mom's group of similar single moms.

I think your daughter will respond positively to knowing that's it's normal to hurt so bad when someone loses their dad. Giving her as many loving people in her life as possible. When you're that small you somehow know you've been robbed of something. This can make her feel insecure and in need of making sure you have boundaries set for her.

Hope this helps. Hang in there mom, you're doing a great job. The fact that you are seeking out advice and help is an indicator of what a concerned and good mom you are even though you are going through your own mourning process.

I am so sorry for your loss first off! That is huge and a very huge for a child. You are so great to seek her help. She will so appreciate it when she gets older. I lost my little brother when I was 11 and even at that age I sure wish I had someone to counsel me with all the feelings that go along with it all. Ask your Pediatrician to refer a play therapist. My ex left and moved out of state and I had a lot of problems with the loss, divorce and daddy moving away. My now 6 year old had a lot of questions, anger and emotions. Through play therapy she came out of her shell, felt safe to express herself and life has improved so much for us all! You are a great mom to be doing that!!!!

Hi M.. Your email really stuck a chord with me this morning. I can't imagine how hard this must be on your family and I think counseling for your daughter and all of you would be excellent. I am a licensed counselor myself and I think all of us could benefit from having someone to talk to and work things though. I know she is young but they have ways of communicating to younger clients to help her process the loss that she is no doubt feeling. The school staff member may not be the best fit because she may be more vulnerable there verses a more neutral site. Give it a try and hang in there.

Dear M.,

Give Hospice a call - they have counselors for individual sessions and classes to help anyone work with the pain experienced in response to the death of a loved one. I was helped immensely when my mother died. They can also recommend counselors/therapists in your area who may specialize in working with children's grief. At one point my daughter worked with an art therapist, which was just perfect for her - she could express her emotions with paper, color and brushes along with some clay sculpting. In addition to your daughter receiving personal counseling, the two of you may also benefit from doing this together.

Wishing you the very best this holiday season,

Hello M., I am a grief counselor with Hospice of Arizona. I believe that bereavement counseling is essential for kids who have had a major loss. There are several very good programs for children in the Valley. Stepping Stones of Hope is one and another is NewSong for Grieving Children. Both are excellent programs and you can find them on the web. We also have a seven week program for kids, it is free, but it doesn't start till April. If you are interested, call Diane at ###-###-####, Hospice of AZ. Hope that helps. R.

Hi M.,

My niece passed away 5 years ago when she was only 16 months old. My nephew was 4 at the time she passed away and it was very hard on him. My sister took him to the children's grief center of NM and it really helped both him and my sister. They would do different activities with the kids to help them understand what happened. I think the thing that really helped my nephew was knowing that there are other kids that have lost someone they loved. He didn't feel alone anymore. If I remember right the parents meet at the same time the kids do. The one thing you have to consider before starting grief center is that your daughter will hear all of the other kids stories about the loved one they lost. Sometimes their stories may involve domestic violence and things of that nature. Aside from that it's an excellent group and I think you should look into it and maybe attend one meeting and see how your daughter likes it. Also the grief center is free and you can attend as long as you and your daughter may need to.

I'm very sorry for your loss and I will keep you and your daughter in my prayers. I wish you both a happy holiday season.


My mom died 3 years ago and my nieces and nephews were 5-12 years of age and handled it very well. They were all very close to her and knew that she went to a better place. I don't think a 3 year old know much about life and death. If your daughter is having behavioral problems it's probably something other than the death of her father. I'm not an expert but our family had no issues with this. I benefitted from the grief counseling but I was 38. Not three. I would just continue to get help from her school and teachers.

Simply put, YES, I'm sure your daughter could benefit from grief counseling. She lost her dad at a time when she didn't have the words--or developmental ability--to try and make sense of her loss. She's asking for help in the only way she knows how, and I'm sorry your school counselor wasn't much help. Actually, I'm amazed you were even able to get an appointment with one. They're spread way too thin... many have as little as a half day a week per school. Thank goodness she has a mom who is in tune to her needs. You'll be revisiting this issue many times as she grows older, and the sooner you guys are hooked into services the better.
I wish the best for you both.

try compassionatefriends.org. it is a self help group that helps deal with loss through death.

Your daughter might benefit from some play therapy to help her express her thoughts and feelings. This is a good way for you and the therapist to understand what might be going on with her. It might help to try it out and see what the therapist might learn through her play. It might be nothing, but it might be something that it helpful to you both. Children understand a lot more than we think, but express them in different ways. Good luck! -A.

I believe school counselors can't help in situations like this. You'll probably need a professional that deals in family grieving, and specializes in children. I emphasize "specializes in children" because children don't often know how to verbally communicate their feelings, and most usually express it through behavior. I truly believe you are on the right path with wanting to put your child through grief counseling. It will help her so much in the long run. I would make sure that they have experience in children though. Only because they cope in a totally different way than adults do.
Best wishes to you and your family and I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that you are doing ok from it all. If not, it wouldn't hurt to get some counseling yourself and may be try it 'with' your daughter. Having her see you expressing your feelings, may very well help her surface her own and help release them. :-)

absolutely, put her in grief counseling..Hospice of Metro Denver (with a center in Aurora) has a children's grief group. Give them a call. It will help you as well. Services are free and you don't have to have used their hospice to get them.


find a good play therapist. i had my daughter in play therapy for a year and half after her dad and i split up, it was a huge help. we learned alot and my daughter got the support that we were unable to give. the therapist also kicked our butts into shape. strongly recommend play therapy. i can give you her name if you are interested.


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