~ Helping a Grieving Child or Teen~
information in this section is provided for educational purposes and cannot
substitute for a professional evaluation by a physician or mental health
practitioner. If you have any concerns or specific questions about your
child's behavior contact your child's physician.
Children and adolescents are not immune to facing
loss, death, dying and grief; they encounter loss and will experience a
grief response. Much as we might want to protect and shelter children and
try to reate a world for them in which no one ever dies, losses do not
occur and they never have to experience grief, we cannot. We are unable
to shelter our children from these realities of daily living--loss and
While we often discuss how we grieve as adults,
rarely do we consider the losses that children and adolescents must face and the unique ways they
respond. Whether they are grieving the death of a parent or grandparent,
or are coping with other losses that are unavoidable in life, children
and adolescents often do not know how to cope.
Children's losses are often invalidated with many
believing that they are too young to feel the loss or a grief response.
While the way children respond varies significantly depending on their
age, even infants can "sense" when something is amiss.
A child's first experience with death is often
the death of a pet. Children also can encounter the death of grandparents,
parents, siblings, teachers, friends and schoolmates. Even without experiencing
death firsthand, children and adolescents are exposed to loss, dying, death
and grief merely by living--whether it is listening to music, playing games,
or watching television or movies.
Children may face other losses through divorce,
relocation or even with growing-up. As children age they must adapt to
many different losses including the loss of childhood, loss of friendships,
loss of identity, loss of roles, loss of self-esteem. Unfortunately, with
the emphasis on growing up so soon now, children often face a loss of innocence.
It is pointless to focus on trying to protect
them. Rather those who deal with children should focus on preparing, understanding
and supporting children and adolescents to cope with loss. Children and
adolesents are helped when the adults around them recognize that they grieve
and support them as they mourn.
We have complied a variety of information and
links to additional resources for those who are interested in helping the
Doka KJ, ed. Living with Grief:
Children, Adolescents, and Loss. Washington D.C.: Hospice Foundation of
American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry. Fast Fact # 8. Children and Grief. Updated November 1998. Available
National Mental Health Association.
Helping Children Cope With Loss. 2001. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/reassurance/childcoping.cfm.
Bless the beasts and
For this world can never
be the world they see...
Light their way when the
darkness surrounds them
Give them love,
let it shine all around them.