January 6, 2013

Helping Our Grieving Families

By Ms. Underwood

As we near the Holidays, all of us are reminded of family members or friends who have died and are not with us.  Our memories may be from very recent deaths or ones from many years ago.   We are again reminded of them.  If we will react with sadness this may put a damper on our celebrations.  We can help others and ourselves by remembering funny things that you did with that person and sharing the neat memories.

Parents, teachers, and other adults, YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.  If you do not know the answer to a child's question, say so.  Young ones know when we are telling the truth.  Use the words "death, dead, dying" and do not use the words, " sleeping, lost, going away, passed away, laid to rest" as children may be afraid to go to sleep or rest.  Be a good listener by giving them your full attention, your eye contact, and your repeating what they have said.

Children will grieve in doses.  They take in only what they can handle at the moment and then may take a break by playing or doing regular daily activities.  Later on they may come back with more questions or expressions of emotions.  It may be they are too young to understand, and it is not that they do not care.  Sometimes they are away from you but they watch your actions and reactions.

Remember that sometimes children have trouble putting their feelings into words and may need your help finding the right words.  Some children may act out because they do not know how to express the pain of grief.  It is fine for you to role play and help them find a way that is appropriate for them.

Young people have a more adult understanding of death, but many times they do not believe that it will happen to them.  A characteristic of some young people might be to believe in their own immortality.  Young people tend to express a lot of anger about death because it is easier to express anger than sadness and hurt.

It is common for young people to go to their friends to seek support.  Peer support is very important in their lives, but they still need caring adults in their world.