Though Broadway actor Nick Cordero is one of more than 132,000 people to die of COVID-19 in the U.S. this year so far, his death has struck many of us harder than others. This is in part because of the many hopeful updates we’ve been used to receiving from his wife, Amanda Kloots, over the past three months, and in part because we know that she’s now the single mother of their 1-year-old son. She has given us this honest view of a worst-case scenario of the virus. Now, we’re wondering what impact this will have on young Elvis Eduardo Cordero.
“He loved his family and loved being a father and husband,” Kloots wrote on Instagram Sunday, announcing Cordero’s passing after his more than 90-day fight with the virus. “Elvis and I will miss him in everything we do, every day.”
Though Elvis, who turned 1 in early June, probably hasn’t seen his father since March, he will feel his father’s loss, according to experts.
“Even infants respond to a death. They miss the familiar presence of a parent who has died. They sense powerful emotions around them, and notice changes in feeding and caregiving routines.”
Studies have shown that the stress of the loss of a father can affect children’s long-term health, so their surviving caregivers need to treat this situation with care.
Developmentally, Elvis is too young to understand what death is, but he will know that his mother and others around him are very sad. That’s OK, though. A grieving parent or caregiver should not feel like they need to hide their feelings from children.
“Parents sometimes want to send their children away to be cared for by others, until they feel they are coping better with the loss themselves,” the AAP guide states. “While this may be necessary on occasion, in most cases it is not what’s best for the children. Remember that it’s not a bad thing for your children to see you feeling distressed. Coping doesn’t mean you have no pain. It means you feel the grief, and also find ways to move forward. When your children see you having strong emotions and dealing with these feelings, they learn skills they can use as well.”
In fact, most mental health experts encourage parents to show grieving children at least part of what they’re going through.
“This is important because it will teach children that their feelings of grief are completely normal and accepted and that it is OK for them to cry,” Jeff Nalin, PsyD, told SheKnows last year.
At the same time, one way of helping very young children cope with this great upheaval in their lives is to maintain as much of their daily routine as possible. This helps them feel safe and secure in the knowledge that someone will always be there to care for them. Routines also help to distract little ones (and their surviving parent) momentarily.
While Elvis won’t be able to remember his father, he will likely still grieve his loss later in life. This can happen during milestones like birthdays, or at random, and that’s totally OK, too. While children should know that life goes on after a loss, is important for adults to keep talking about the person who has died and to keep their memory alive.
“They need to see that grief includes missing someone after they die and being sad when we can’t see them or talk to them,” Jill A. Johnson-Young, LCSW, told SheKnows. “They also need to understand that it is perfectly normal to talk to them anyway — and that saying their name and talking about them is how we keep them in our world for the rest of our lives.”
We wouldn’t wish this kind of loss on any child or parent, and our hearts go out to Kloots, Elvis, and the many others missing someone in this pandemic.
For more help on how to parent a child after a loss, the National Alliance for Grieving Children has helpful information and local resources.