Grief is a universal experience that requires patience, time and understanding. If a person experiences the loss of an important person, a beloved pet, a safe and familiar environment, a physical or mental ability, or a much cherished life dream or goal, grief normally will occur.
Children, adolescents and adults can experience the same kinds of loss. The intensity of the resulting grief will vary with the importance of the loss, the personality and coping skills of the bereaved person, the possibility for positive and active ways to deal with the grief and the response of the people in the person’s environment. Generally, if a person has supportive and empathetic people who are willing to help by talking and doing things to promote a healthy grieving process, the grieving person can sometimes go through the process without have to consult a mental health professional.
When a child or adolescent has experienced a loss, it can be very helpful to have the support and encouragement of other family members, friends and teachers. Healthy healing can be promoted by significant people who listen without prying and share how they felt when a similar loss occurred in their life. Providing age appropriate books on grief, suggesting activities that will encourage a positive grief process and spending some extra one on one time with the grieving person can all facilitate healthy grieving. Tears are a positive way to express and ultimately resolve grief and should be encouraged. Doing these things should facilitate the grief process.
It is very important not to put a time limit on the grieving process as this can vary widely from person to person. If a child or teen continues to show significant symptoms of depression such as frequent crying spells, heightened fear of normally comfortable activities, increased problems with separation from family, nightmares, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, or avoidance of social activities after several months, it would be advisable to seek professional help.
Our clinicians at Silber Psychological Services have dealt with many children and teens who are experiencing grief of varying intensity and are in need of talking with someone outside of their personal support system. Grief counseling with minor children usually involves some sessions with the parents as well as individual sessions with the child or teen. The stronger the grief reaction and the more severe or life altering the loss, the longer grief therapy may be needed; however, a specific time limit cannot be determined due to the differences in individual responses to therapeutic intervention. The therapist, parents and youngster will reevaluate the need for continued treatment based on the improvements. Having help from a seasoned professional can have a very positive impact in resolving grief. The staff at Silber Psychological Services stands ready to assist in helping children and their families cope with the grief process at any time.