Frequently Asked Questions
A child/teen will often find an outlet for their grief. For some it will be music, or art while for others it might be sports or physical activity. Encourage your child to explore a wide range of options and develop multiple coping methods.
Brain processing seems to slow down for people when they are bereaved, difficulty concentrating and/or taking in information is common for children and adults. Many caregivers become concerned when children’s grades in school show signs of a downward slide. This is a common occurrence as some children and teens may find it harder to concentrate and to sit and be still and find school and studying to be more challenging.
Some children and teens may withdraw from their normal activities and spend more time alone, while some may embrace social activities and spend more time with friends.
Some children and even teens will begin to experience some form of separation anxiety following the death of someone close to them. It may be due to the sudden reality that something bad has happened and something bad might happen again to someone else they love.
It is ok for your child to see you cry, they will then know that it is ok for them to cry in front of you as well. They will learn to open up, discuss their feelings and honour their loved one by the examples set for them. If possible foster an environment where they can openly express themselves without feeling judged or censored. It is also important to keep in mind that children tend to be more physical and less verbal in their grief. One possible way to remain open with them would be to join them in activity, and without forcing conversation, be open to any questions that they ask. When children do open up and discuss their grief it will often be in short bursts, they will engage you in a brief discussion and then continue to play or even change the subject rapidly.
How do I offer support to a friend or family member who is grieving?
Do not assume that another person’s experience of grief and their response to it is the same as yours. You cannot take away the pain of the person who is grieving but there are many ways that you can be of support. For a child it can be through play, reading a book, painting a picture or going for a walk. For a teen or adult one of the greatest things you can do is to allow them to talk freely. It is often helpful allowing the bereaved individual to tell their story.. Do not offer advice or judgment. It is important for the bereaved person to feel your support, there are no words that will lessen or fix the pain.
- How are you feeling?
- I don’t know what to say, but I can listen if you want to talk
- We don’t have to talk, we can just sit here
- What can I do for you?
- I imagine this might be very painful for you
- I’m sorry that you have to go through this and I’m here for you
- Go ahead and talk/cry, it’s ok, I don’t need you to be strong for me
- I don’t know how you feel, I have had someone close to me die so I have perhaps had similar feelings
- It sounds like you are…. (sad/scared/angry/frustrated/overwhelmed)
- I understand
- I know how you feel
- They wouldn’t have wanted you to cry or be sad
- Be strong for …… (your mother, father, brother, children..etc)
- Get on with your life/Get over it/Stop feeling sorry for yourself
The Dougy Centre (centre for grieving children) – www.dougy.org
Winston’s Wish (centre for grieving children)- www.winstonswish.org.uk
Canadian Virtual Hospice – www.virtualhospice.ca
Grief Works BC(website for grieving kids & teens) – www.griefworks.com
Association for Death Education and Counseling – www.adec.org
Kids Help Phone: (1 800-668-6868) www.kidshelpphone.ca
Some books to read to children
Brown, L.K. (1996) When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death.
Goldman, L. (2005) Children Also Grieve: Talking About Death & Healing.
Mellonie, B. & Robert Ingpen (1983) Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children.
Kennedy, Joan & Dianne Dekkers (2012) What does not ever mean?
Kennedy, Joan & Christy Hamill (2011) What is suicide anyways?
H.C. MacArthur Henry and Harriet
Judith Viorst The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
Allan Peterkin M.D.What About Me? When Brothers and Sisters Get Sick
Books for Teens
Gootman, Marilyn E (2005) When a Friend Dies
Chalifour, Francis (2005) After.
Grollman, Earl & Max Malikow (1999) Living When a Young Friend Commits Suicide.
Kuklin, Susan (1994) After a Suicide: Young People Speak Up.
Books for Adults living/dealing with grieving children and teens
Wolfelt , Alan Healing a Child’s Grieving Heart
Coloroso, Barbara (1999) Parenting through Crisis
Parkin, Rebecca & Karen Dunne-Maxim (1995) Child Survivors of Suicide: A Guidebook for Those Who Care for Them
Rubel, Barbara (2000) But I Didn’t Say Goodbye: For Parents and Professionals Helping Child Suicide Survivors
Nussbaum, Ness, RN, MS Preparing the Children
Johnson, Joy Keys to Helping Children Deal with Death & Grief
McCue & Bonn, How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness
Helen Fitzgerald, The Grieving Child (A parent’s guide)