- -In a poll of 1,000 high school juniors and seniors, 90% indicated that they had experienced the death of a loved one. (nahic.ucsf.edu/downloads/Mortality.pdf)
- -One out of every 20 children aged fifteen and younger will suffer the loss of one or both parents. These statistics don’t account for the number of children who lose a “parental figure,” such as a grandparent or other relative that provides care. (Owens, D. “Recognizing the Needs of Bereaved Children in Palliative Care” Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing. 2008; 10:1)
- -A parent’s death usually makes a severe impact on a child, research shows. After losing a parent, 85% of children exhibit such symptoms as difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts, worry, depression, bed-wetting, and thumb-sucking. After a year, more regressive behaviors may fade, but other problems, such as lack of confidence and preoccupation with illness, are likely to continue.
- Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Just like mental illness, someone that is grieving can not always be identified on the outside; just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. One of the statements we use in the Cross the Line activity regards the loss of someone close to us. This is a reality for many people and it becomes extremely difficult over the holidays, when memories of family and friends loss to due to death, overdose, suicide, and changing social dynamics remind us of an empty space that can’t be filled. When children and teenagers lose an important figure in their lives, they experience many symptoms of mental illness as a normal part of the grieving process. For some, however, the impact can be much more debilitating. Youth with grief experiences, especially those that are traumatic or sudden in nature, are more at risk for mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), separation anxiety, and substance use disorders (SUD).
What do we know about grief? The Caring Foundation notes:
1. Grief is a natural and normal response to death.
2. Every person’s grief is unique.
3. Grief is not a disease.
4. Grief is a lifelong process that changes with time.
5. Children grieve dierently than adults.
6. Children of different ages grieve differently.
7. Many adults who had lost a parent when they were young describe the death as the defining moment of their lives.
8. Grieving children and adults need support.
9. We grieve because we love.
10. Grieving children and adults don’t “just get over it” but they can learn to integrate the death (the absence of the one they love) into their lives.
So what can we do to help a friend or family member that is experiencing grief?
-“I’m sad to hear that your husband/wife/child died.”
-“If you want to talk about what happened, I am here to listen.”
-“Tell me about _________” (the person who died—and use their name).
-“I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.”
-“I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I am here if you need a friend.”
-“I know how you feel.”
-“You shouldn’t feel that way.”
-Any cliche like: “Time heals all wounds.” ”He’s in a better place.” “You’ll be OK.” “Be Positive.” “It’s time to put it behind you.”
Remember, what you say is not as important as just being there. There is no way to make it “better” for your grieving family member or friend. What most people who are grieving need is someone to be there who will listen and will not judge them. Just the same as you would do for anyone with a mental illness.
Stand Together wants you to know that it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to not be okay. You’re not alone. We’re here.
If you or someone you know is suffering the loss of a loved one, there are resources to help:
The Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families, provides peer support groups for grieving children. Referral services, adult telephone support, and educational programs and resources for grieving children and families are also provided. In addition, consultation services, educational presentations and resources for schools and other professionals in the community who work with children are provided, all at no charge.
Highmark Caring Place
620 Stanwix Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Circle Camps provide free overnight camp programs for children who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. Our mission is to offer our campers the adventures and fun of living and playing together at overnight camps, while providing supportive environments in which they can share their grief.
Circle Camps for Grieving Children*
5124 Holyrood Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
As always, re:solve Crisis Network is available, toll-free, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week at 1-888-796-8226 or in-person.
re:solve Crisis Network
333 North Braddock Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15208
(Special thanks to the Caring Foundation and Highmark Caring Place for the above facts and tips. More information can be found at their website.)
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