Dr. Mom

Welcome to the parenting forum where you can find information and advice on many of your parenting concerns. Helping our children form adaptive skills that last a lifetime is a full time job. Today, more than ever, parents need up-to-date information to manage the complications and concerns about the future of their children. This section is dedicated to providing thoughtful information and resources for you.

Helping Children and Teens Deal with Grief and Loss

As parents, we want to protect our children from pain. This section deals with how parents can learn to better help children through grief and loss events.

Acceptance: The healthy grief process begins with acceptance. Because acceptance is challenging for all of us, it is especially challenging for children and can be complicated due to their age and stage of development. We can better accept things that we can understand. Understanding will be affected by the child's age as well as the type and nature of loss.

In general, it is important to talk about the loss in a way that is developmentally appropriate to the child. Depending on the loss, this process will need to be repeated as the child grows. For example, a child who loses a parent at age 5 will grieve the loss again at a different developmental stage and need further information for processing what the loss means at that stage.

Expressing Grief/The Grief Spiral: While it is always helpful to talk about emotions, use of play, drawing or stories is often more helpful to younger children. If your child is shutting down or having behavioral expressions of grief, having alternative ways to express feelings will be important.

The process of grieving is not linear or step-by-step, as we once believed. Instead, grief can be thought of as happening in waves, initiated by a trigger. The cycle involves experiencing Shock (or numbness, disbelief, disorientation), Anger (yearning, despair and disorganization), Reorganization/Adjustment (acceptance of a new reality). Repeating the cycle of reality and the finality of the loss are how we incorporate death into our new and altered life.

Support: The ideal support includes a village of understanding others. We all need validation that a real loss has occurred and "entitles" the mourner, especially a child, to grieve. In any way that we give children permission to react or withdraw is appropriate to validate their experience.

Complicated Mourning: If you or your child experience complicated mourning, seeking professional help is advised. Risk factors for developing complicated mourning include Factors Before the Death (previous loss history, absence of spiritual framework, relationship with the deceased ), Factors Associated with the Death (violence, multiple losses, unexpected death), Factors after the Death (social support, concurrent stress, secondary loss), and Traumatic Loss (Suicide, Homicide, PTSD, Death of a Child). A professional Grief Counselor or therapist who specializes in grief work will be better able to evaluate you and your child in the process and support you through the process.

While losses are a naturally occurring part of life, dealing with grief and loss can sometimes be complicated and traumatic. If that is the case for you, or you are concerned about your child, please do not hesitate to contact us for support. The therapists are Malec, Herring and Krause are all trained in grief work and know how to evaluate for complicated bereavement and can support you through the process of living with a loss.

Further Resources for Grief and Loss

Unspoken Grief: Coping with Childhood Sibling Loss, by Helen Rosen

After a Suicide: Young People Speak Up, by Susan Kuklin

Talking About Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child, by Earl Grollman

Sad but OK: My Daddy Died Today by Barbara Juneav

How it Feels when A Parent Dies, by Jill Krementz

The Dying and The Bereaved Teenager, by John Morgan

The Kid's Book About Death and Dying by Eric Rofes

Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers by Earl Grollman

At Malec, Herring & Krause, we feel strongly that addressing parenting issues is an important and necessary part of our work as clinicians. Please contact us for further support around this most important and challenging part of our lives.

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