As adults, we often don’t know how to process and work through our own grief; it’s common to feel even more helpless when consoling a child or teen. The grieving process is unique to each of us, however, children and teens grieve differently than adults. Youth may not be able to express, or even identify, their feelings.
If you know a young person who has lost a loved one to death, be mindful of the following tips:
Be honest. Provide simple, direct and honest answers and encourage questions. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
Provide reassurance. Tell the child that he/she will always be taken care of and loved and that the death was not his/her fault.
Don’t judge. Do not judge what a child says or does. Instead, acknowledge what is said or done to preserve trust and help him/her continue sharing.
Be a model. Examine yourself and your own grieving. A child learns about grief by watching you. If you hide your feelings, the child will hide his/hers. Don’t be afraid to cry around your child.
Watch for teachable moments. Use natural circumstances to teach the child about loss, such as the death of a pet or a change of seasons.
Most of us need information and support to deal with loss. As the region’s leading provider of end-of-life care and education, Hospice of the Red River Valley is pleased to once again offer Youth Journeys on Saturday, Nov. 2—a daylong workshop for youth ages 6-18 who have experienced the death of a loved one. For more information about Youth Journeys, or to register, contact us at 800-237-4629 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pre-registration is required by Monday, Oct. 28.
Youth Journeys is one of many grief-related offerings that Hospice of the Red River Valley provides to our communities. In addition to this workshop, we also have support groups and classes, a grief resource library and an annual conference. No one should have to suffer through grief alone. If you or someone you know could benefit from grief support and resources, please contact us.
Kriston Wenzel, LSW, is a bereavement specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley. What she enjoys most about her work is having the chance to help individuals and families find their strength and resiliency during such a difficult time in their lives.