Grieving children face unique challenges
The adults in a child's life can help facilitate the child's ability to regulate amidst the storm.
Grief is a normal and natural response to loss — it is how we come to terms with, make sense of, and heal from it. “Natural” is not necessarily easy or simple. Grief hits us in waves, and is often described as a rollercoaster with fleeting moments of balance and hope, and frequent pain and depletion.
Both our loss as well as our response to it is highly personal. There’s nothing “too small” to grieve, and even dreams and hopes for things we never had, matter.
To grieve, is to be human. Grieving children face unique challenges. Young people don’t always have the words to describe what’s going on for them; they don’t have experience to draw from or the comfort of an abstract future to give them hope, which only emerges late in childhood. The youngest don’t fully comprehend the permanence of a loss, forcing the heavy emotional reality to overwhelm them repeatedly before the new reality sinks in.
Supporting a grieving child means helping them do what they can’t (yet) do for themselves — it is normalizing the raw and uncomfortable experience; contextualizing it while providing hope for the future; encouraging good care for their bodies in the form of regular and nutritious meals, plenty of rest and downtime, and physical activities; supporting opportunity to connect with friends, family, and loved ones; validating and encouraging self-expression; changing their relationship to the loss and finding ways to honor it. More than anything, adults need to remain steady and stable, to facilitate the child’s ability to regulate amidst the storm. Particularly challenging is a joint loss, in which the adult must help themselves and the child in parallel and in real time.
For adults to be that solid rock, they need to be able to seek and pursue those very same things that benefit the grieving child: flexibility within a framework, support, and grace for those moments when they perform below their highest standard.
While many losses are permanent, our feelings about them are not. If you or a loved one is thinking of self-harm or suicide, it is time to get professional help. A caring professional is trained to help you in ways that have been proven to work — there is no reason to go at it alone.
Learn about the comprehensive services at the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center or call our 24/7 referral line at (844) 556-2012.