Understanding Grief & Loss
Sam Dover | October 9, 2020
When you think of grief and loss, often times what comes to mind is the concepts of death or divorce. And while these factors are most certainly contributors to a child’s grief and loss, children’s grief can come from many, many situations. Perhaps your child has recently had to move schools. Perhaps they lost a favorite toy. Perhaps, your teenager is struggling with the some of their new found freedoms and responsibilities. Loss comes in many forms which means our children may carry many layers of grief. It is also worth noting that we all carry grief differently. Perhaps your child presents as stereotypically sad with big tears and isolating behavior, or maybe they are more likely to become aggressive and unruly. “Normal” has a pretty big definition when it comes to looking at grief.
Anyone who has ever had to sit with a child who is grieving or trying to understand what loss means will know that this is an insanely difficult role for caregivers to be in. We want so badly to take any pain away from them and it can be heartbreaking to think that little ones (or big ones in the case of teenagers) may be exposed to some of the harder parts of the world so young. Sometimes, we also may not understand what or why our child is actually grieving. Often times, all of this leaves us caregivers feeling helpless and confused. You may find yourself wondering, “Am I doing this right?” or “How do I know that I am not causing more harm?”
Just as parenting/caregiving does not come with a manual, neither does grief. There are amazing people out there that we can learn from, but there are also many times our own grief has been invalidated or pushed aside because those around us did not know what to do either. This leaves us without tools to teach to our own children. For this reason, you may find yourself scouring the internet or polling all of your friends to try to find out the best way to support the child you love and care for.
I created a workshop for the Institute of Child Psychology for that exact reason. I want parents and caregivers to know that they are not alone in trying to support children through grief and I want them to know that there are things we can do to help. There are definite steps that caregivers can take to recognize the emotional incompleteness that a child carries and to help them heal their hearts. This workshop session will provide you with a set of skills and a new sense of empowerment that will allow you to better recognize grief within yourself and your child and help the both of you move towards recovery after a loss. This session will also give time for personal reflection and discussions so we can all work towards incorporating some of these strategies into our values and home lives.
In more detail, the workshop for Helping Children with Grief and Loss will:
- Define grief and recognize the 40+ different types of losses that could contribute to it
- Recognize the myths pertaining to grief and why they are not helpful in our long-term recovery
- Recognize the signs of grieving in children
- Identify the losses in your child’s life that are emotionally incomplete
- Learn the actions that can be taken to help a child recover from grief
- Identify the importance of caregiver’s grieving patterns and how it influences children
In addition, I have also added a unique section to this year’s presentation on supporting grief related to COVID-19. While some children appear to be coping well, this is an unprecedented incident in our lives and the amount of change it has caused to other children and their families has been detrimental. Even children who are coping well will likely benefit from some extra support this time as they are still flooded with scary or confusing messages and may be feeling some impacts on their sense of safety and security.
Grief is not something we were ever meant to deal with alone. Your care and support towards your child, and whatever loss they are facing, provides them with the skills they will need to navigate the future losses that life inevitably brings. And when we come together as a community to discuss topics such as this, we learn new ways to apply these lessons or strategies and we hear from others to remind us that we are not the only ones. I look forward to learning with you on how we can best support the child you care for and on how a community can come together to show all of us that we are not alone in navigating through the messiness that can be grief.
Sam Dover, M.C., Registered Psychologist
Speaker for the 2020 November Online Children’s Mental Health Conference
Join us for our upcoming annual Children’s Mental Health Conference via online format airing November 20-22, 2020!