Childhood grief is a complex reaction to a real or perceived loss. It can be triggered by:
- Death of a family member, friend, or pet
- Prolonged or unexpected separation from a caregiver through marital separation, divorce, deployment, incarceration
- Transitions such as moving, changing schools
- Loss of time with a caregiver or other significant person as a result of starting school or caregiver beginning working.
Each of these losses impact a child profoundly, however, grief typically looks different in children and adolescents than it does in adults. Furthermore, when the adult is also grieving, they may be unable to give the child the necessary attention, leaving the symptoms of grief untreated.
Symptoms in a young child may involve difficulty comprehending the permanency of death. Symptoms in a teenager may involve rebelling or pulling away from family and friends for fear of further abandonment.
Because kids mourn more through their behaviors than they do verbally, grief expert Alan Wolfelt, PhD, and author of Healing a Child’s Grieving Heart says, “Play is the grieving child’s natural method of self-expression and communication… (play) allows the grieving child to be accepted for where (he/)she is in (his/)her emotional state at any given moment in time.”
If your child is struggling after experiencing a loss, our counselors can in identifying and appropriately expressing the complex, and often confusing, emotions surrounding loss. Our therapists use a combination of techniques including play and art to help children and adolescents process the loss, manage the symptoms of grief, and resume life with new understanding. Call today to learn more.