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Resources for Childhood Grief

Carey met Steven when his family moved in next door to hers.

He was an only child and Carey was the youngest, with two older brothers who didn’t want a little sister hanging around. Steven became an instant playmate since he was the same age. In fact, Carey and Steven were in school together, both in the same 3rd-grade class. Carey knew Steven was sick, but she didn’t understand what it meant when Steven said he was born with a hole in his heart. She just knew he couldn’t run around and play soccer with her outside. So, on weekends, Carey would cross the street to see Steven and knock on the door. His mom would let her in and in his room, they would read and play with army men and make forts.

One day, Steven stopped coming to school. When Carey went to his house and knocked on the door, his mom didn’t answer. Carey was confused. She knew they still lived there but hadn’t seen her friend. One day, Steven’s mom answered the door. She said Steven was sick and was in the hospital. Carey’s mom didn’t want to take her to the hospital, or later, the funeral. Carey’s teachers didn’t talk about Steven’s absence or even acknowledge it. Carey felt sad.

Seventy percent of children under 18 are likely to experience the death of a friend or family memberIt is important that children have an opportunity to express the feelings they have about death and dying. Part of the difficulty in this is that the adults in the child’s life either don’t understand grief and haven’t processed in a healthy way themselves or are also experiencing their grief on the matter. It, therefore, becomes critical for adults to have resources that support children through the grief process.

Children need to know the truth about the loss, however, how much that is shared will depend on the age and/or maturity of the child. Honesty builds trust and reduces anxiety for the child and allows them some closure.

Children know more than we think they do and by not telling the truth, we risk leaving children to process complicated information on their own, rather than with the loving adults in their lives.” Source: National Alliance for Grieving Children

There are things children need to understand to come to a place where they can process death. New York Life put together a booklet that details this more, but overall they are:

1.Death is irreversible
2.Living and functions of life end at death
3.Everything alive eventually dies
4.Physical reasons are tied to the reason for death

For younger children, there is a Sesame Street booklet that is designed to help parents and caregivers with talking to kids about death. The language is simple and clear, and a great resource.

Many organizations also exist to offer support and include:

dougy.org offers several resources including how to talk to a child about tragic events.

childgrief.org offers resources for parents, counselors, and teachers and includes suicide prevention information.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers an overview of, symptoms of, and resources for, children who have experienced trauma.

Griefspeaks.com offers support for teens experiencing grief and offers suicide hotlines and resources.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has grief resources for families available in additional languages such as Spanish and Chinese.

Fairmount offers the support of Family Care Providers who help you with the entire process of preparing for and conducting a life honoring service for your loved one. We offer bereavement services for the families we serve and can meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for like we have been doing for Denver families since 1890. Give us a call today to meet with one of our Providers or ask any questions you have at 303-399-0692.