November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. Childhood grief remains one of society’s most overlooked and least understood issues. This lack of community awareness compounds the grief journey that every bereaved family must undergo. By developing a timely, robust body of knowledge around kids’ and parents’ grief experience – and sharing that knowledge broadly – the hope is to raise public awareness and understanding of the prevalence and impact of childhood loss.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR GRIEVING CHILDREN
The National Alliance for Grieving Children provides a network for nationwide communication between hundreds of professionals and volunteers who want to share ideas, information and resources with each other to better support the grieving children and families they serve in their own communities. Through this network, the NAGC offers online education, hosts an annual symposium on children’s grief, maintains a national data base of children’s bereavement support programs and promotes national awareness to enhance public sensitivity to the issues impacting grieving children and teens.
…when people in their lives die.
…in a personal, individual, and unique way.
…within the context of their family, culture, and community.
…the death of someone in their life in different ways at different times.
Children who are grieving a death are supported when…
…parents and caregivers provide attentiveness, warmth, and connection.
…they hear words and see actions that uplift, empower, and encourage them.
…they are prepared for things they might see and experience after the death.
…adults model healthy coping.
…they are given space to experience and express their grief in their own ways.
…they are able to connect with peers who have also experienced a death.
MOST COMMON CHILDHOOD LOSSES
The Grief Recovery Method® lists the following as the most common losses experienced by a child:
…Death of a pet
…Death of a grandparent
…Divorce of parents
…Death of a parent
How can we better help our children grow into adults who can deal with these losses? It may be hard for many of us to change, but our children need us to take the lead when it comes to loss. We have to learn to replace our old behaviors with new ones when it comes to grief. This means we need to look long and hard about how we deal with and react to loss in our own lives. If we can do that, our children have more of chance of being successful in their own lives. The book When Children Grieve states, “Establishing a foundation for effectively dealing with loss can be one of the greatest gifts you give you child.”
WAYS TO HELP A GRIEVING CHILD
Here are six ways you can help a child who is grieving:
…Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.
…Avoid the trap of asking a child what is wrong since he or she will automatically say, “Nothing.”
…Adults – Go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.
…Remember the reaction a child has is unique to them. If you have more than one child, respect that each of their reactions will probably be different.
…Acknowledge your child’s emotions before addressing the facts. Listen with your heart and not your head. If your child brings up the same issue over and over again, it means they are not being heard.
…Make sure your verbal and non-verbal communications match. Children may respond incorrectly to their loss if they feel you are teaching them to “do as I say, not as I do.”
Our children look up to us. They tend to do as we do. It’s important that as adults, we communicate accurately about our emotions so that our children can see, copy and learn. Helping them will ensure they can more effectively deal with grief and loss events throughout their lives.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!