The moment you learn that a child you care about is dealing with death, a running ticker tape of emotional responses begins to scroll through your head.
...What do I do? This is so scary. How do I help? I can’t believe this happened...
As you parse through the rich and growing material circulating within the childhood bereavement support community, isolate the advice that matches your special needs. Grief support is not supposed to be a ‘one size fits all’ experience. Despite what you may know about stages of grief, the bulwark of grief growth happens in tasks. So it is best to rely on grief support resources honoring grief in tasks, not stages. Grief is not orderly and bereavement responses do not follow linear timelines. Children handle the emotions associated with death and loss in real time, at their present level of development. Any support response you deliver must be adaptable and modified as the child matures.
The National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) http://www.nationalallianceforgrievingchildren.org/ is the premier resource for best practice in grief support for children. Although bereavement support cannot be accomplished in simple steps, NAGC member The Amelia Center www.ameliacenter.org offers this thoughtful list sharing 10 Ways to Help Grieving Children:
Grief support can be overwhelming. And sometimes you have to begin with a simple list of directives, and grow your support from there. Every death and grief story is unique, and when you’re teaching children how to be alive again, you’ve got to do it in such a way that the child feels you can see inside of them. So be as honest with yourself as possible about what you can do, seek help for what you cannot do, and share the kind of support that feels most authentic for everyone.
Copyright (2015) Suzanne Bayer. All Rights Reserved.