Children and Grief/Loss - Parents Guide to Helping
Watching children go through the stages of grief can be one of the hardest things in the world. If you feel helpless watching a child grieve, however, things don't have to stay that way. You can help the child develop coping skills. You can also seek therapy for him or her.
Identifying the Five Stages of Grief
Children are just like all other human beings. They grieve after they experience traumatic and life-changing circumstances of all kinds. If you learn how to identify the natural stages of grief, you may be able to help a mourning child in a much more effective and healthy manner.
1. Denial is the first stage. If a child seems unable to acknowledge or understand that something distressing has taken place, he or she may be in denial. This is a coping mechanism that can help many people get past hard situations.
2. Anger typically follows the denial stage. Once denial begins to go away, healing commences. This is precisely when all of the difficult emotions the child was concealing rear their ugly heads.
3. Bargaining is next. If you notice a child "negotiating" as a means of reversing the traumatic situation, then that may signify that he or she is in the midst of bargaining. A bargaining child may state that he or she will do whatever it takes to make things "okay" again.
4. Depression is the fourth stage. After the child grasps that the bargaining is fruitless, he or she may feel lost, vulnerable and bleak. These emotions can all point to depression.
5. Acceptance, last but definitely not least, is the final stage of grief. This acceptance in no way points to a child who is okay with what has happened. It simply points to a child who finally understands that he or she is going to move beyond the situation and be fine regardless.
Family support can be priceless for children who are in the middle of grieving. It's critical for parents, caregivers, relatives and friends in general to do anything they can to assist children with grief and healing matters. How can you help a child handle grief well? The following suggestions may be effective.
Normalcy can be valuable for youngsters who are grieving. A traumatic situation will rock any child's universe. That's why the best thing people can do is provide children with safety and predictability through normalcy. How specifically can you do that? Continue with routines as usual. Do your best to keep up with typical schedules. You want to make sure the child understands that he or she can depend on you no matter what. Drive the child to extracurricular activities just like you did before the difficult event. Encourage your child to go to sleep at the same time he or she always did. Maintain a reliable exercise schedule. It's critical to make sure the child grasps that there are certain things that don't have to change.
Be a Nurturing Spirit
Affection can go a long way for grieving children. Let the child know that you're there to provide love and care whenever he or she is ready. Make a point to spend quality time together, too. This may be as simple as going to the local park together and watching the birds. It may be as basic as watching a hilarious comedy film together before bedtime as well. Don't be offended if the child isn't ready for love or attention. Some children take quite a while to "bounce back" after they experience life-changing circumstances.
Accentuate the Value of Communication
Communication and self-expression can do so much for children who are grieving. If you want to help a child grieve and heal, you should motivate him or her to engage in some form of self-expression. You may want to ask a particularly artistic child to paint her deepest emotions.
Guidance from a qualified child therapist who specializes in grief can often help considerably as well. A child who needs therapy may have regular temper tantrums. He or she may behave in an oddly clingy manner. Other clues are separation anxiety, inappetence, bedwetting, social isolation and academic troubles.