Grieving Resources for Children
Abra-cadabra. Open Sesame.
There is no magic word we can say to help someone move through grief. Grief is a personal journey for every individual, regardless of age. Coping with loss presents challenges for the whole family. Children may not be able to put words to their big feelings and emotions, and they may not understand what is happening. With support, open conversations, and finding ways to keep the missing loved one present, families can move through grief together.
Through the willingness to answer difficult questions, explaining and reassuring, discussing emotions, noticing signs of stress, and showing you care – trusted adults can help children journey through grief.
Everyone grieves differently, and there is no “best” way to grieve, just as there is not a timeline. A child’s developmental stage, temperament, and relationship with the person they are missing are factors in how the loss is felt and expressed.
Answering Difficult Questions:
While trusted adults cannot take away a child’s difficult thoughts and feelings, you can make sure that the children know that you are listening and are available to them to share their feelings, worries, and questions.
Be patient with the child and with yourself. Moving through grief is a process, and you may also be grieving. Children may ask the same questions repeatedly. It is best to answer honestly, giving age-appropriate information.
Listen. The best thing a trusted adult can do is listen when the child speaks. Sometimes, the child may not have the words to explain how they are feeling. You can offer to draw, offer to listen to whatever they want to say, and allow them to explain their thoughts without interjecting too often. If you aren’t sure what the child is asking, ask for clarification.
It’s OK that you may not have all the answers or may not be ready to answer a question. Be honest. If you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know, what do you think?” as this gives the child the ability to share his thoughts and feelings. If you tell the child that you will find out the information, try to do so. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Signs that a child may need more support
Grieving is a natural process and takes time, but symptoms that persist beyond six months or are very impairing to the child may indicate that the child might need professional help them move through the grieving process and work with their emotions.
These problems can show up months or years after a loss.
- The child cannot be comforted
- Inability to sleep, prolonged fear of being alone
- Poor concentration
- Ongoing behavior problems
- Persistent regression to earlier behavior in young children, such as clinging, bedwetting, or thumb-sucking
- Excessively imitating the dead person
- Sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend school
- Extended periods of depression –while sadness is normal, a prolonged loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities could be a sign that a child is struggling.
- Grief symptoms grow worse over time: grief signs should gradually diminish over time. If the symptoms are getting worse, a professional may be able to help the child cope with their feelings.
- Repeatedly expressing a desire/need to join the deceased person: if the child says they want to be dead or wish to be dead, it is important to get professional help.
Rainbows For All Children:
Rainbows For All Children is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1983. The organization supports youth as they journey through grief regardless of loss. Some losses that children experience are death, divorce, chronic illness, deployment, incarceration, and any other life-altering traumatic event. Trained facilitators lead age-specific peer-support groups. Weekly support groups are held for 7 to 14-week sessions, depending on the age group, and are open to any child with no fee to attend.
Sunbeams: Pre-school (Ages 3-4) Children grieve their loss while developing appropriate life skills. This process involves weekly meetings with a trained facilitator in small groups of no more than five children. **not currently offered by High Peaks Hospice
Rainbows: Kindergarten through 8thGradeElementary and middle-school aged children speak about their feelings and share their grief in small group settings. These groups are led by trained facilitators. **Offered during the school year
Spectrum: High School Adolescents share thoughts and feelings about their loss with same-aged peers experiencing similar losses. These groups are led by trained facilitators. **Offered during the school year as the need arises.
Rainbows For All Children Facilitators:
North Office: (Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence & Hamilton)
South Office: (Warren and Washington)