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.
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.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrrv.org.