Children’s Grief Counseling in Columbus, Ohio

Losing a loved one is a heart-wrenching experience, especially for children. As parents, providing optimal support is essential, but navigating children’s grief can be overwhelming.

Ever been unsure about what to do, say, or not say? It’s okay, we’ve all been there.

That’s when children’s grief counseling can be beneficial. It helps children and parents know how to navigate conversations, activities, and emotions surrounding loss. Though not required, seeking professional guidance can be a crucial step toward creating a safe and structured environment for your child as they grieve a loss.

Understanding the complexities of a child and grief

Each child experiences grief in their own unique way, and it’s often based on their age and developmental stage. For example, infants and toddlers may display changes in behavior, while preschoolers begin to grapple with the concept of death. School-age children express it through various emotions, and adolescents face a distinct set of challenges.

Infants and toddlers

During the early years of life, infants and toddlers can sense changes in their environment such as the absence of an individual and the emotional unrest that comes with it. As a result, grief often manifests through change in behavior which may include:

  • Sleep regression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Clinginess
  • Increased fussiness or irritability

At this stage, the primary mode of communication is non-verbal, making it essential for parents to observe and interpret these cues. Seek to provide comfort and stability in response to their needs.

Preschoolers

Preschoolers, typically aged 3 to 6, begin to understand the concept of death, but may not fully grasp the permanence of loss. Their expressions of grief often involve a mix of curiosity and confusion, and you might notice them incorporate these themes into their play.

They may ask questions about where the person has gone, when they will return, or if they can be found elsewhere. Responding to their questions with simple, honest, and age-appropriate explanations helps guide them through this stage of understanding grief and loss. 

A simple explanation might sound something like:

“Grandma’s body stopped working, and she won’t be able to be with us anymore. Even though we can’t see or touch Grandma, her love will always be with us in our hearts.” 

School-age children

School-age children, between 6 to 12 years old, express grief through a variety of emotions. This stage is typically marked by a growing ability to understand the permanence of death, yet their emotional responses can be complex.

Kids in this age group may experience sadness, anger, guilt, or even moments of apparent normalcy. They might struggle with changes in routine and may need support in articulating or navigating their emotions. It’s crucial in this stage for parents to provide opportunities for their children to express their feelings – perhaps in a creative way. 

For example, to encourage conversation, you might say:

“I can see that losing Aunt Suzy has made you really sad. It’s completely okay to feel that way. We can draw a picture together to remember the happy moments you shared with Aunt Suzy. And if you feel like talking about it, I’m here to listen.” 

Teens and adolescents

Teens grapple with grief and loss on a more complex emotional and intellectual level. They may exhibit a range of emotions, from intense sadness to anger or withdrawal. Adolescents are simultaneously developing their own identities and may question existential aspects of life and death.

Peer relationships, academic pressures, and the desire for independence can further complicate their grieving process.

It’s vital for parents to encourage open and honest conversations while respecting their teen’s need for space and independence. In other words, be present when they’re ready to talk, and offer space when they’re not.

Child Grief Counselors

Creative grief activities I can do with my kids?

Supporting a child or teen in grief requires patience, understanding, and a gentle touch. Open communication is paramount during this time. Encourage questions. Offer age-appropriate explanations. Create a safe space for expression, whether through words, drawings, or play. And most importantly, be present as they navigate this season of loss.

Below is a list of creative activities you can do as a parent to help your grieving child or teen:

Encourage creative outlets through art

Provide art supplies for drawing, painting, or crafting. This may help the child express emotions visually.

Create memory journals

Work together on a journal where the child can write or draw memories of the loved one.

Engage in play

Use playtime as an avenue for expression, allowing the child to use toys or dolls to act out feelings or scenarios related to their loss.

Read books about grief and loss

Choose age-appropriate books on grief to read together. This allows for understanding and open conversation.

Nature walks or outdoor activities

Spend time in nature. Engage in activities like hikes or picnics. This may provide a calming environment for conversations.

Integrating these grief activities offers your child a structured approach to find healing within the comfort of their own home. While these activities often prove beneficial, there are instances where the complexity of the loss may require the specialized support of a professional grief counselor.

The benefits of children’s grief counseling

Children’s grief counseling, also known as bereavement counseling, provides a structured and supportive environment for processing and healing under the guidance of a trained therapist. Through age-appropriate activities such as play and art, a counselor helps build resilience and equips children with coping strategies to navigate grief and loss.

Here are a few benefits your loved one might experience from grief therapy:

Build Resilience

Grief therapy equips children with coping strategies, promoting resilience in the face of adversity. Learning to navigate their emotions empowers them to face future challenges with a more resilient and adaptable point-of-view.

Improve Communication

Through counseling, children learn effective ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings. This not only helps in the grieving process but also improves communication in various aspects such as relationships with friends and family.

Develop Emotional Intelligence

Grief and loss counseling helps children recognize, understand, and express a wide range of emotions. Developing emotional intelligence equips them with valuable tools to navigate future challenges and relationships. 

By addressing grief early on, we aim to nurture resilience, which we inherently possess, and prevent long-term psychological impact such as persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or even behavioral issues.

How long does grief counseling take?

The duration of children’s grief counseling typically ranges from a few sessions to several months. Depending on the unique needs and progress of the individual, the counselor keeps the duration to remain flexible to ensure continued progress for your loved one.

What does a child grief counselor do?

A trained counselor supports a child in coping with grief and loss by creating a safe space with creative activities for emotional expression. Using age-appropriate activities, such as play, art, and talk therapy, kids are guided through the grieving process. Our trained professionals tailor their approach to the unique needs of the individual, emphasizing a child-centered approach.

Finding a child grief counselor

Choosing the right counselor is a crucial step in supporting your loved one. It’s important to look for experienced professionals with specialized training in child therapy. Some additional complimentary training or certifications may include play and art therapy.

Equally important is a counselor’s ability to connect with your child. Seek someone who utilizes a child-centered approach to ensure that the therapeutic process is tailored to meet the unique needs of your little one.

As parents, we understand the deep love you have for your child and the pain that comes with seeing them grieve. Navigating through grief is a journey, and you’re not alone. By understanding the complexities of children and grief, offering a supportive environment, and seeking the right help, you’re providing the foundation for your child’s healing and resilience.

Remember, in times of sorrow, there is hope, and together, we can guide our children toward a brighter tomorrow.

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