No Child Should Grieve Alone
We All Grieve, Regardless of Age
Grief among children is more prevalent than most people realize. One in five children will experience the death of a significant person in their life before they reach 18; one in twenty will experience the death of one or both of their parents before reaching adulthood. We understand life threatening illness, death, and grief are all part of the life’s journey, but, for many, this can be overwhelming if not dealt with through professional intervention.
For children and teens, untended grief from the loss of a loved one is directly related to depression, PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety symptoms, and problems in school. Severe reactions to loss can traumatize children and lead to deep depression and destructive behaviors, putting youth at risk of engaging in activities such as promiscuity, self mutilation and medicating, defiance towards authority, and detachment from society.
Sponsored through Wings of Hope, Hummingbird Hospice is able to provide a Children's Bereavement Program, offering free professional support and coping tools for children, teens and their families that are essential for successful emotional growth and healing.
For more information and resources on grief support for children, visit Wings of Hope at www.wingsofhope-tx.org/griefyouth
Caring for our community's children is a key element of Hummingbird Hospice's mission
Helping Children Cope with Grief
Children often have questions when a loved one’s passes. The best way to help them is by answering their questions in simple but straightforward ways.
Nonspecific answers can confuse children. This may lead to the development of fears, patterns of consistent worry, and other negative thoughts. Children tend to take things in a more literal sense than adults, which is something to keep in mind.
Explaining to a child that a loved one has passed by saying they have “gone on a long trip” will make the child expect that loved one to one day return. They may develop a sense of guilt when that person doesn’t return, and they may even think they were the reason that loved one left.
Qualities to Remember
When talking to children about death, ensure that you do so in a way that is honest, compassionate, and loving. These qualities must be present to help children understand where a loved one has gone.
Strategies Designed to Aid Children with Grief
Allow Children to Grieve
A child must be allowed to express his or her grief. These expressions may develop rapidly, as they tend to be associated with serious illness or death relating to family members. Sharing these reactions with other family members is incredibly important, especially for younger children who may lack the vocabulary to express their grief. They may express these feelings through drawings, behavior, or in other ways. Encourage children experiencing grief to ask questions, and deliver simple but honest answers to them. Listen to both what the child asks and what isn’t asked to help the child fully grieve.
Speak in Terms they can Understand
Observe & Engage
Share Your Feelings
Understand that Each Child is Different
Preparing Children for View End-of-Life
Preparing children for the events following the loved one’s death is another vital step. Funeral rituals and a way to say their farewells should both be explained. Interacting with other young children at the funeral can be incredibly beneficial, but only if the child desires to do so. Assigning an adult “friend” to help them if they need to leave the service can be helpful.
Let Children Grieve
It is vital for adults to understand that children must grieve. They must do so to learn how to grieve properly, which in turn requires that their family and other loved ones help them during this time. Being a part of the activities when a loved one passes is something that children need to grieve properly and to grow.
Remember Your Loved One Together
Reminisce with the child about the deceased’s life. Share memories and stories to help develop a healthy grieving process. Writing, storytelling, planting flowers special to the passed loved one, as well as other actions can help provide healthy ways for the child to grieve while forming happy memories.
Converse with the child in terms that he or she can comprehend. Avoid the use of medical terms and other jargon, as these are often inadequate for describing the disease or the way that a loved one passed. Focus on utilizing more tangible words, such as those that describe things a child can hear, see, touch, or feel. Ask the child if he or she understands what has been described. Listen to the child’s explanation of it to better understand him or her. If any areas of confusion exist, then try to clarify them using the same strategy of simple words.
Adults should do their best to observe the child’s responses. Carefully pick and choose when to engage in conversation about the family member passing. Children tend to benefit more when they bring their questions to adults rather than being lectured.
Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with children. This can help to encourage them to be open about what they are feeling because children look up to adults as role models. They will look up to adults for help with understanding the feeling of grief and how to properly express it so that they may continue with life.
Understand that each child has his or her own way of grieving. Their responses are modeled after how they see others grief. They may be influenced by the circumstances of the loved one’s death, what relationship they shared with the deceased, how emotionally and mentally developed they are, and how they observe others during the grieving process
Community Grief Education and Support
Crisis intervention for students and faculty
Grief and loss training for educators and healthcare professionals hosted by the Coalition to Support Grieving Students.
The Children's Bereavement Program, sponsored by Wings of Hope, is made possible through generous donations from individuals and organizations.