Counseling Children in Grief
The experiences of grief influence all aspects of a child’s life. When sudden, unanticipated, or traumatic death occurs, there will be changes that will be manifested by the affected child. In the emphasis, there are several physical and emotional signs that can indicate that the child is grieving. For instance, crying and sadness are feelings that are demonstrated frequently by the grieving child. Some children experience anxiety due to issues such as losing their loved ones, fear of their own death, and the lack of stability due to the changes that death might bring forth. There are other children who face episodes of stress because they fear that they may lose the surviving parent. Some children are worried about the changes that will occur in the functioning of the family. For instance, when a mother dies, her children may become anxious and stressed about the father taking over the roles that were previously assumed by the mother. On this note, it is clear that experiences of grief influence the lives of children significantly, and there is the need for counselling to help the affected children to deal with grief.
In most cases, grief and grieving are psychological, social, and physical responses that the children demonstrate after the loss of their loved ones. Therefore, different counselling techniques can be applied to facilitate healing for the grieving child (Philpott, 2013). For instance, creative art therapies, particularly dance movement therapy (DMT), are important in helping the children to share and heal their experiences with the loss of their loved ones. Practically, DMT is a holistic approach that aims at enhancing the overall wellbeing of the bereaved child (Philpott, 2013). It creates a room to invent physical and social ways of expressing grief that are important in enhancing self-worth as the child continues to express his or her current situation. In the emphasis, DMT provides more than just a verbal way to express personal experiences through art, plays, and dance movements (Philpott, 2013). In this way, the grieving child can reveal his or her inherent thoughts and learn to deal with terrible emotions thus facilitating a healing process.
Due to lack of exposure to death many children experience complicated grief. This means that there is the need to help them embrace the experience and learn to adapt to the new life after the loss of a loved one (Dickens, 2014). Notably, there are children who try to keep emotions deep within themselves although it is evident that they are grieving. In the emphasis, they do not want to discuss their own feelings. Therefore, the survivors can help the affected child by making commitment to support him or her (Dickens, 2014). That is, although professional counseling in recommendable, a strong network of the family, friends, neighbors, and other community members offers remarkable benefits for the child going through complicated grief. In this way, the bereaved child will be able to express his or her emotional feelings, and the members in this network will help him or her to recover from the shock (Dickens, 2014).
Children behave differently when they are grieving. Such experience increased anxiety, traumatic grief, and other behavioral problems. In essence, school-age children have the fear of losing their loved ones. This means that when death occurs, these children will go through significant period of grief (Sormanti & Ballan, 2011). Therefore, effective ways to help them to recover from this kind of shock are necessary. More importantly, children with developmental disabilities may face difficulties in trying to adjust to experiences of loss. These are conditions such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy that limit the ability for self-direction, care, and expressive language (Sormanti & Ballan, 2011). On this note, when death occurred, there is the need for interventions that will provide for support and guidance. In this case, there are therapeutic guidelines that will help the affected child with control, expression, and interaction with the peers (Sormanti & Ballan, 2011). First, the parents, caregivers, and counselors must recognize that children with disabilities are affected by loss, too; that is, the limitation of communication skills does not mean that they are not grieving. Therefore, it is critical to try to identify behaviors such as aggressiveness, intense frustration, and withdrawal as possible indications of grief (Sormanti & Ballan, 2011). More importantly, children with developmental disabilities should not be kept away from the reality of death and mourning rituals. These are ways to enhance their natural coping mechanisms. They should be encouraged to participate in activities such as post-death arrangements that are related to the death of their loved ones (Sormanti & Ballan, 2011). This creates an adaptive process of coping with grief.
The surviving parent has a great responsibility to help the grieving child to adjust to the death of the other parent. However, in many cases, the manner in which the surviving parent responds to his or her own grief, compromises their ability to help the affected child (Werner-Lin & Biank, 2013). Therefore, this means that a suitable environment should be created to help the grieving child. In this case, professional help comes in handy. In the emphasis, the counselors should use a holistic approach to support the child to prevent other problems that are related to grief (Werner-Lin & Biank, 2013). For instance, by forming a close relationship with the bereaved child, the counselor will be helping him or her to adjust to the life after loss. In addition, this expert facilitates dialogue to combat issues of isolation, withdrawal, and self-esteem, because the grieving child can express his or her feelings to the counselor or psychologists (Werner-Lin & Biank, 2013). Notably, the professional should facilitate ongoing peer and support group to provide a flexible strategy to counseling the bereaved child.
Professional support is paramount for the grieving child. On this note, the educators have a role to pay on helping him or her child to go through the bereavement period. Notably, following the death of a loved one, some children develop childhood traumatic grief (CTG) that hinders their ability to adapt to the grieving process (Cohen & Mannarino, 2011). In this case, although CGT is treatable, the educators should offer intensive support to children suffering from this condition. In the emphasis, the former can provide collaborative support to facilitate a healing process. They should work collaboratively with school-based mental health professionals to identify the symptoms of CTG in time (Cohen & Mannarino, 2011). If such signs appear, the educator should develop a plan with the parent and the mental health professional to guide the affected child in learning adaptive coping skills (Cohen & Mannarino, 2011). More importantly, the educators should strictly follow the recommendations of the mental health professionals to enhance the ability of the child to recover from grief.
A significant number of children experience many losses such as death, divorce, and separation throughout their childhood. It is unfortunate that the community cannot protect them from the events that are associated with loss and grief (Favazza & Munson, 2010). However, parents and teachers can help the affected children to deal with the mentioned negative feelings. First, the parents should encourage the children to talk about their losses by sharing other similar stories that are related to grief (Favazza & Munson, 2010). In this way, the child will realize that there are other children who are facing similar experiences. In other words, by addressing the need for conversation and support for children, it becomes easier to help them to integrate loss and grief positively (Favazza & Munson, 2010). Second, the teachers and parents should try to understand a wide range of feelings that are expressed by the grieving child. For example, some children will demonstrate behaviors such as withdrawal, disturbed sleeping patterns, and eating problems. Therefore, although the parents and teachers should allow the child to stay alone for some time, it is important that they should be available to listen and talk about grief-related events (Favazza & Munson, 2010). Moreover, creating environment that will promote activities such as dramas, games, and arts will play a significant role in promoting self-expression of the grieving child. This is to say that the teachers and parents should continually foster healthy and positive ways for children to come in terms with their current losses and respond positively (Favazza & Munson, 2010).
It is important that long-term recovery plans should be implemented to help the children to adapt to life after loss. Notably, following death, some children suffer from post-traumatic stress, depression, and traumatic grief (Salloum & Overstreet, 2012). This means that clinical assistance is recommendable to combat other issues such as suicidal thoughts and isolation. Moreover, the government should provide adequate funding to enhance the treatment and recovery for children who are struggling with a variety of stressors that are results of experiencing loss (Salloum & Overstreet, 2012). Furthermore, the caregivers and clinical professionals should be ready to provide social support that is crucial for the child to develop coping skills.
A lack of understanding on how the children are expressing grief makes it harder to help the affected child to develop coping skills. It, therefore, means that the parents, caregivers, and educators should try to identify responses to death and grief reactions (Breen & O’Connor, 2011). More importantly, when there is a positive support, the child will not feel like he or she is living in a nutshell. On the contrary, in such case, the grieving child is provided with coping skills to let the grief go off. For instance, when a child loses his or her mother, he or she may feel that he or she will never experience the same bonding he or she had with his or her mother (Breen & O’Connor, 2011). However, with support from other family members, the child will start feeling that there are other people who can take responsibilities and care for him or her. In other words, children need help from caring people who can lead them through the bereavement process (Breen & O’Connor, 2011). As a result, as the child continues to bond with those around him or her, it will become easier to grow to other stages of life without unresolved grief.
Counselling children in grief aims at helping the child to accept the reality of loss, adjust to the new situation, and providing social support from other people who can ensure the required care (Dyregrov & Dyregrov, 2013). In essence, most of the children will experience post-traumatic stress disorder particularly with events such as accident and sudden death. Therefore, given the many adverse health consequences on the grieving child, it is important to look into possible ways through which the child is expressing grief (Dyregrov & Dyregrov, 2013). In this case, the advice of clinical professionals is critical to differentiate between normal and complicated grief. In this way, it becomes easier to provide the required treatment if the child is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. Moreover, it helps in enhancing the consciousness of the child in relation to talking about death and other events that causes grief (Dyregrov & Dyregrov, 2013). In this way, the parents should follow the advice of the counselors and psychologists to provide support that is necessary in helping the children to recover from grief.
In some instances, children experience traumatic grief in response to death. In this case, the child will demonstrate symptoms such as crying, numbness, and poor adjustment to the loss of the loved one (McClatchey, Vonk, Lee, & Bride, 2014). The child may experience complicated grief that makes him or her continue living with the memories of the deceased, because young children are more prone to traumatic grief. Therefore, mental health practitioners need to be careful in assessing grief in the child who has lost a loved one (McClatchey et al., 2014). Practically, it is difficult for children to understand death, and therefore, they become depend on the survivors to provide for the needs as previously provided by the deceased. Therefore, the caregivers should create a personal connection and relationship to help the child throughout the recovery process (McClatchey et al., 2014). The attention and support from professionals is also crucial to deal with complicated bereavement.
In conclusion, children respond differently when they are experiencing grief. On this note, it is clear that grief influences the lives of children significantly, and there is the need for counselling to help the affected children to deal with this negative feeling. There are such approaches as dance movement therapy, support group, and professional treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. More importantly, the parents, caregivers, and educators should create a personal connection and relationship to help the grieving child to develop adaptive skills. Moreover, the intervention of health practitioners is critical to differentiate between normal and complicated grief.