NOVEMBER IS CHILDHOOD GRIEF AWARENESS MONTH

keJRrpcLrzmu56hA3iPDURhChTDhwAL20z_QTYRWAx8No one wants to see a child hurt, especially me! But unfortunately, I have come to accept through personal experience that eliminating loss from life is not an option. And, that does mean children will be impacted.

In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau released Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, which estimated that 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the United States) are raised by single parents. That, in itself, is loss of epidemic proportions. Then add into the equation, the number of children experiencing loss through the death of a parent, sibling or grandparent. The hurt factor skyrockets!

Children are said to be resilient. It is true, they are. So are adults. Resilience means that we have the ability to recover quickly from a difficult situation; however, adults and children, alike, will be even more resilient when given the tools to cope with life’s tragedies.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Children cannot be fooled. They know when something is wrong or when something “bad” has happened. Not discussing it with them, doesn’t make it go away. Allowing them to see you cry because your heart is broken is not weak or shameful. Letting them know that they are safe in the midst of chaos and that you will all get through this together… is a gift of HOPE.
  • Children have a “natural rhythm” to grieving. The intent behind this term is to acknowledge the inner wisdom of children and the ability they have to experience sadness and joy intermittently. In other words, bereaved children will allow themselves to feel the pain and sadness of a loved one’s death, yet they can still convey their need for food or drink, or watch a video or play with their friends for a while. They will be sad, but they will also take care of their needs and allow themselves sustenance and pleasure.
  • Children have the same potential responses to grief that an adult has: confusion, sadness, sleep and eating disruptions, and tears etc. They are also at risk, as an adult is, if they are not given a safe place to do the work of mourning. The
    difference will be that an adult may be able to express what they are feeling, but the child may not be able to verbalize what is going on for them. Therefore, watching for signs of regression (e.g. a child who is potty-trained now has accidents), acting-out (e.g. outbursts) and eating/sleep disturbances are all “signs” that a child is struggling with inner turmoil.
  • Patterns in families are repeated over the generations. Parents learn from their parents and their parents learned from their parents how this family deals with grief. Do they keep on keeping on? Do they talk about it? Do they dismiss it? Whatever it is, we often need to examine our family of origin and decide for ourselves if how it was handled worked. If it didn’t, then change it. Give yourself, and your child, permission to do grief in your way and in your own time.

We are often afraid for children to experience the pain of loss. As parents and adults, we understand how loss feels; therefore, we want to shelter our children and protect them from feeling that overwhelming sadness. The reality is that children, even if you shelter and protect them, will experience loss and they will feel sad. Isn’t it better to give them the tools to reconcile grief so they have the coping mechanisms needed to face life head on? I think so.

So yes, children are resilient, but they will be even more resilient when given the tools to cope with life’s tragedies.

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