LOSS & GRIEF
Dealing with the death of a loved one is always a painful experience. Although you know that everyone around you has gone through this kind of grief at one time or another, it doesn't make the experience any easier for you.
Children’s Response to Loss
In general, the loss of a parent, sibling, relative or friend will mean a loss of sense of security for a child. Also, while pre-schoolers have difficulty understanding that death is not temporary, older children, between the ages of five and nine, begin to experience grief more like adults.
Children express grief in a variety of ways, including appearing to be unaffected. But, no matter how a child appears on the outside, there may be grief beneath the surface. Here are some common ways children respond to a death:
anxiety or panic
crying often and easily
loss of appetite or other eating disruption
increased physical complaints or illnesses
acting younger, possibly reverting to bed wetting, thumb sucking or baby talk
fear of being alone
sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend school
Helping Children Cope with a Loss
Respond patiently to children’s concerns. It can take them a long time to recover from a loss. Expect their grief to revisit in cycles as strong reminders, such as the anniversary of a death, reawaken grief.
Keep children’s routines as regular as possible. Children grieve not only for the person but also for changes in the household and environment of family and friends.
Whenever possible, offer children choices in what they do or don’t do to memorialize the deceased and ways to express their feelings about the death. Help the child plant a tree or dedicate a place in memory of the person who died.
Give children a chance to talk about their feelings. But don’t push them to talk. Children, like adults, need time to grieve and be upset. Let them know you are ready to listen and provide reassurance when they express their feelings. To lessen confusion, avoid expressions such as “passed on” or “went to sleep.” Answer their questions about death simply and honestly. But, only offer details they can absorb. Don’t overload them with information.
Adults’ Response to Loss
Some common ways that adults respond to a death include:
Feeling numb, emotionless or lost
Guilt over failure to protect their loved one
Frustration, anger, fear or uncertainty
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Difficulty with changes in routine
Calling in sick frequently
Helping Yourself and Others with Loss
The more sudden and unexpected the death, the harder it is for people to express support. Often, the fear of saying or doing something “wrong” keeps people from offering support.
Here are some ways to help yourself:
Do your mourning now. Being brave is important but don’t miss an opportunity to cry. It’s not self indulgent, but a sensible and honest way to deal with your emotions.
Repressed feelings don’t go away. Express your feelings.
Remember that people do recover from sudden loss and that you too can move through this terrible pain and begin to heal.
Bear in mind that emotional pain isn’t constant. We will love forever but we don’t need to grieve forever to honor that love.
Get support from others – counselors, support groups, bereavement groups, compassionate friends, or other loss survivors.
Here are ways to help others:
Acknowledge the loss in some way. Send a card. Help to plan a memorial service. Observe a moment of silence at a community event.
Offer help to the family by making a meal, providing transportation or babysitting a child.
Offer words of sympathy. Speak from the heart, but be mindful of the different ways in which people mourn.
If your stress doesn’t begin to subside or is so strong it interferes with your ability to function in daily life, don’t try to go it alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
The above list is adapted from the National Mental Health Association website and has been used by permission. The links provided below can give you more information on dealing with loss.