Grief is an inevitable, never-ending process that results from a permanent or temporary disruption in a routine, a separation, or a change in a relationship that may be beyond the person’s control. This disruption, change, or separation causes pain and discomfort and impacts the person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Although loss is a universal experience, the causes and manifestations of it are unique to each individual and may change over time. (Fiorini & Mullen, 2006, p. 10)
Albeit, most people link grief with loss but they can be separated. Grief doesn’t have to deal with death alone but also an end to a relationship due to disruption, moving, divorce and end to happy events such as going to school, gradating etc. .
Even though grief is often equated with a feeling of sadness, it is more realistic to view grief as a process which is expressed in thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical sensations by everyone.
As grief can be portrayed from different circumstance revolving a child’s environment, then it is crucial that we provide adequate support to help children transition from such feelings.
Signs of a Grieving child:
Children may be extra clingy after a loss through death or separation.
Academic Issues-falling behind in studies or failing classes that they once aced. Trouble concentrating on tasks or fail to complete assignments.
Sleeping Problems- want to sleep with parents or others close to them, or they could have nightmares or dreams about the person who died.
Difficulty Concentrating-They also struggle to focus and may appear distracted or lost in space.
Anxiety- Children may start to worry about everything, but particularly about other people in their life dying. They will need reassurance that they will be safe and looked after on a daily basis.
Feelings of Abandonment
Behavioral Reactions-Children of all ages may react to grief by displaying behavioral problems that didn’t exist before.
Children might think it’s their fault because they once wished the person would “go away” or they might somehow think their actions caused the person’s death or separation.
A child’s reactions to grief can depend on many things, including their developmental stage. Bereaved children and teenagers will need ongoing attention, reassurance and support.
How can we deal with grief in children?
- hold and cuddle more – keep them close
- keep to routines if possible
- be calm around them and speak calmly to them
- Provide comforters, favorite teddies or blankets.
- talk about who is looking after them and keeping them safe
- read children’s books together about death and grief
Grieving children feel less alone when they are with other children who have experienced the death of a significant person and when they have loving, consistent adults in their lives.
Greater than any education, information or advice we can give to children who are grieving is to allow children who are grieving to connect with other children going through a similar experience. When children have the opportunity to interact with one another, they feel less alone.