Helping Children Deal with Grief
By: Michaela Reynolds
Losing a loved one is inevitable and can be one of the most difficult times in life. Sadly, you cannot protect your children from the pain of the loss, but you can help them build healthy coping skills. The grieving process will look different to everyone, but it is especially different with children compared to adults. For example, preschool children will most likely view death as temporary and reversible. This is because cartoon character’s death in TV shows or movies usually will die and come back to life. While children between the ages of 5-9 will start to think of death like adults do. However, they will view death as rare and not something that will happen to them.
It is important to help the child express feelings about the death. A way to do this is by reading the child books about death, telling stories or looking at pictures of the person who died. It is also important for you to express your own sadness and make them aware that it is okay to be sad at this time. Offer your support and comfort when you can, while also encouraging them to ask any questions or talk about their feelings.
It is normal that the following weeks after the death for the child to feel immediate grief or believe that the person is still alive. However, long-term denial or avoidance of grief can be unhealthy and can lead to severe future problems.
Signs of children experiencing serious problems with grief:
- Extended period of depression: a child loses interest in daily activities
- Loss of appetite, inability to sleep, and prolonged fear of being alone
- Excessive imitation of the person who died
- Acting much younger for an extended period of time
- Believing they are talking to or seeing the person who died
- Withdrawal from friends
- Sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend
If these signs persist, please seek professional help; a child and adolescent mental health professional will be able to help your child accept and properly grieve the death.
If you or someone you know is seeking therapy for the loss of a loved one, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/