How to Know When a Child Is Grieving
When working with children, I will quite often use a workbook that illustrates the four seasons, discussing how each season relates to the different phases of life. The children always catch on very quickly and are eager to point out the similarities. I enjoy working with them for this reason. Quite often, adults are afraid to discuss death and dying with children due to fear that it will make them sad or upset. I have found that sharing information with a soft language and at a level that children can understand actually alleviates their fears and enables them to adapt to the situation more readily.
Children, when coping well, will ask questions or gather a small amount of information, then run off to play. They may incorporate events from an illness or death into their play just as they would other scenarios. This is all very normal. It is also helpful to offer opportunities for them to grieve with the family. Although we don't want to burden them with adult issues, they need to know that it is okay and even healthy to cry when you are sad.
Other things to monitor during a family's mourning are the child's sleeping pattern, eating, social or school problems, and regressive behaviors. If your child has problems sleeping, develops nightmares or wets the bed, that could be an indicator that they need help. In terms of eating, you should monitor loss of or increase in appetite or stomach aches. If your normally outgoing child begins to develop social anxiety or problems in school, this too could be an indicator that they need assistance in dealing with their grief.
You can expect that your child may be a little clingy, irritable, easily frustrated and tearful at times. During these times, it is helpful to have patience and offer a little extra attention to meet their needs for emotional support. Remember, they often do not have words to explain how they feel.
If you have a child in your family who could benefit from grief support, you are welcome to make a referral to our Kids Path program.
—Stacie Adams, Bereavement Coordinator (Mount Airy Office)
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support