Children and Grief

Understanding Grief

Grief is a reaction that someone has when they experience loss, in any form. While most people associate grief with the loss of a loved one, grief can also be experienced if the child’s parents get a divorce and one parent is no longer in the picture, if the child changes schools, or any other major life change. Just as loss may come in many different forms, the reactions that a child may have can also take many different forms. There is no right way for a child to react and cope with grief, or a specific emotion that he/she should feel. Children can experience a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, regret, meaninglessness, and many others.

Treatment Options for Grief

While some children are able to cope with their grief on their own, there are instances when the grief a child is experiencing is so distressing that is begins to have a negative effect on their lives. Therapy is an effective way to help these children cope with their grief and overcome the negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated to the grief. Along with the many forms of loss and the many reactions a child may have, there are also many different treatment options that our therapists will use to meet the needs of the child. Some examples of treatment are helping the child find a way to stay connected to the loss or helping the child find closure with the loss. Therapists may also help the child work on improving symptoms associated to the loss through mindfulness techniques such as meditation or relaxation.

Helping Children Cope with Grief

When children experience a loss they often have many questions about what has happened. It is important to allow children to ask these questions and to answer them in an age appropriate but truthful manner. It can be hard for children to ask parents these questions and for parents to answer these questions. We have therapists at each of our locations who provide a place where children feel safe and free to ask any questions they may have. Children also grieve in cycles, meaning that although they may present themselves as being “over it”, they may truly just be needing a break for their negative feelings. It is important to allow children to grieve in their own way and to allow them to take as much time as they need. During this time the child is likely to feel alone, different, or misunderstood by family members and peers. Giving children a place to talk about their grief and not feel judged can help them have a better outcome. Therapy offers this place for children to talk about their grief and the feelings that come with it but parents can also help their child cope with these feelings at home. Many parents feel as if they should not talk about the deceased or other loss, however, reminiscing about the child can help them overcome their grief. When a child mentions the deceased, it is important to make them feel heard and give them the opportunity to talk about the deceased as much as they need to.