Children and Grief
“Grief is not a problem we are trying to fix for a child; it is an experience they are living.” –National Alliance for Grieving Children
Helping children who experience the loss of a parent, sibling or other significant person in their lives can be challenging. Adults who are present to guide a child through his grief often wonder if they are saying and doing the right things. For a child adapting to the new reality of life without his loved one, this is a lifelong journey.
The National Alliance for Grieving Children and the Doughy Organization offer suggestions on how to help a child through the grief process. Children will grieve in many ways. Some will express their emotions easily and others may express themselves through art, music, play or other means. They may have mood changes that come and go over time. They may feel sad, angry, numb, and anxious. Children may also experience physical symptoms such as tummy aches, loss of sleep, fatigue etc.
A grieving child needs the adults in his life to be honest, patient, understanding, and good listeners. Adults can practice listening by not assuming what a child is feeling, but by letting the child express what is on his mind and in his heart. Sometimes we may worry that a child experiencing grief is not crying enough, is too quite, or is grieving too long. Checking in with him is important and allowing him the opportunity to express his grief, in his own way, is part of the healing journey.
Sometimes adults may try to shield a child from facts about how someone died, or may speak about the death in terms of passing away, falling asleep etc. Explaining to a child that his father died of cancer versus telling the child his father was sick and then died is an important distinction. It will help the child to understand that when someone they know is sick with a cold, it is not the same as cancer. Grief counselors have found that by being honest in the beginning, children will worry less about some of the big questions of why someone died and will be less confused.
Children will also be more open with adults who are honest with them. They will feel it is okay to ask uncomfortable questions. This will allow them to move through their journey of grief, instead of being stuck in a place of uncertainty. Helping children to remember their loved one by sharing memories is also healing. They will feel less alone and will know it is okay to talk about their loved one. Finding peers who are also experiencing grief can be helpful as well.
There are many organizations that can assist adults find groups, organizations etc. where children who are grieving are brought together. Individual and family counseling can also be helpful for guiding children and the adults in their lives through the grief process. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our Orlando mental health counselors.