And, that number doesn’t include children and teens who lose a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend or other important person in their life. Every school and every community in America has children and teens who are grieving the loss of a loved one. For many kids, grief often causes emotional isolation and feelings of being alone.
Join Comfort Zone Camp on November 17 in raising awareness about the prevalence of childhood grief and ways to support young people and families who have suffered a loss.
What you can do on November 17 to help let grieving children and teens know they are not alone:
- Wear a Comfort Zone Camp shirt or pin to school or work on November 17
- Email or post on Facebook your experience with Comfort Zone and HelloGrief
- Use our awareness images for your Facebook profile picture or Twitter background (right click and Save Link As to save image to your computer)
- Challenge the people you know to register as a volunteer or make a donation to Comfort Zone
- Send a note of encouragement to the young people you know who have suffered a loss
- Hang the “Be There” poster in your community or at your school
Our friends at the National Alliance for Grieving Children also offer a great tool for understanding grieving teens. The following list was compiled by Pamela Gabbay, and can be very useful when communicating with teens who have experienced a loss.
10 Things Grieving Teens Want You To Know
#1 – Grieving children want to be told the truth.
- Tell grieving children the truth with these considerations in mind
- The age of the child
- The maturity level of the child
- The circumstances surrounding the death
- Answer questions as honestly as you can
#2 – Grieving children want to be reassured that there will always be someone to take care of them.
- Grieving children spend a lot of time worrying about another person in their life who might die.
- To help alleviate this fear, it’s important to reassure them that there will always be someone in their life who will take care of them.
- Enlist the aid of their parent or caregiver to determine a plan for the children. Let the children know what the plan is.
#3 – Grieving children want you to know that their grief is long lasting.
- Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life.
- Grieving kids don’t “just get over it”.
- They will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.
- Their grief changes over time as they grow and change over time.
#4 – Children often cope with grief and loss through play.
- Children grieve through play.
- Typically, they cannot sustain prolonged grief.
- Children use play as a way to cope with their grief and to take a break from the grief.
#5 – Grieving children want you to know that they will always miss the person who died.
- People die, but love doesn’t die.
- Grieving children will miss the person who died for as long as they live.
#6 – Often, grieving children want to share their story and talk about the person who died.
- Having an opportunity to tell his or her story is often beneficial to a child’s healing process.
- Sharing memories about the person who died is also very important.
- Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died – they are also worried that others will forget their person.
#7 – Every child grieves differently.
- Every child has his or her own grief journey and own way of grieving.
- Some children might be more expressive with their grief.
- Some children might keep it all in.
- Siblings grieve differently.
- Just because children come from the same family doesn’t mean that their grief will be the same.
- It is important to honor each child’s story, even if it is different than his or her sibling’s story.
#8 – Grieving children often feel guilty.
- Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt.
- Even if the guilt is not justified and has no basis in reality.
#9 – Even though I might be acting out, what I’m really feeling is intense emotions of grief.
- Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared.
- Since they might not know how to express all of these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.
#10 – If you’re not sure what a grieving child wants, just ask him or her!
- When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help.
- Check in with the child – do they want to talk about the person who died? Maybe not.
- Expect myriad answers.
- Do they want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their grief?
- What do they need?
You can help grieving children by:
- Really hearing them when you’re listening
- Following their lead
- Validating their feelings
- Answering their questions
- Seeking out additional resources, as needed
You may wish to share this with coworkers, school personnel, and family members. A printable version of this list can be found here. When we all work together to understand and support grieving teens, we offer a better chance for healing and growth.