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  • Writer's pictureChad Anderson, LPC-S

Death & Dying

Though death and dying are often seen as topics that aren’t fun to discuss or ponder, they are obviously normal parts of the human experience. Therefore, these are topics that need to be discussed openly and honestly. The reality is that children will experience the death of a loved one (family member or friend) in their life. It’s also estimated that 1 out of 14 children will experience the death of a parent. Before discussing death and dying, It’s important to identify the different terms associated with death and dying.

Bereavement, grief, & mourning- what's the difference?

While bereavement can be defined as the objective experience of losing someone by death, grief is the subjective experience of losing someone by death, and mourning is the process of dealing with grief.

What are possible signs and symptoms?

While grief reactions vary widely among bereaved youth, possible signs can include:

1. Fluctuation in emotions (confusion, sadness, worry, anger, increased anxiety, and mood changes)

2. Change in behavior (acting out, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, and decrease in academic performance)

How long does grief usually last?

These signs and symptoms are normal reactions to grief and most children return to baseline after a period of time. While normative grief symptoms gradually start to lessen over time, complicated or prolonged grief is persistent and intense, causing extreme distress and impairment in daily functioning.

What are ways we can support our kids in the grief process?

1. Allow children to speak openly and ask questions about their loss.

2. Use age-appropriate language, such as “death” and “dying” rather than “passed on” or “is sleeping.”

3. Facilitate a consistent routine.

4. Encourage continuing bonds with their loved one.

Should our kids see a therapist?

Most bereaved children will not require intervention for their grief, and most families will not seek formal therapy. How a child experiences, understands, and copes with the loss of a loved one is related to their developmental stage, previous experience with loss, individual temperament, family factors, religion, and culture.

What therapies can help?

For children whose grief is complicated by trauma, the following therapies can be helpful:

1. Trauma Informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TFCBT)

2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

3. Trauma and Grief Component Therapy for Adolescents (TGCT-A)

4. Group therapy such as Grief Recovery

What are some other available resources?

-Chad Anderson, LPC-S

LifeSpring Behavioral Health

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