10 Things Grieving Children Want You to Know
One in 20 children will lose a parent by the age of 18. Most Americans will experience the death of someone close to them before graduating high school.
Death is a part of life, and loss is difficult for everyone, but children and teens grieve differently than adults. When a child’s grief goes unnoticed or isn’t properly addressed, the hurt can last a lifetime. Data indicates that without support, grieving children are at a much greater risk for depression, suicide, poverty, and substance abuse.
“As a society we tend to overlook how grief affects children, despite the tremendous impact it can have on their lives,” said Mary FitzGerald, CEO of The Moyer Foundation. “But when we can provide the support children need, it’s truly amazing to watch them start to heal and learn to hope again.
The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin® Program is the nation’s largest network of free bereavement camps for kids, serving more than 3,000 children and teens annually in 46 locations.
Observed this year on Thursday, Nov. 19, Children’s Grief Awareness Day was established to draw attention to the unique needs and perspective of grieving children. Grief support organizations and families across the country mark the day each year as a way to remember loved ones and to raise awareness.
“We have been focused on leading a national discussion about childhood bereavement since 2008,” said Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, a primary supporter of The Moyer Foundation. “We have made great progress, but this issue needs more attention, and we need to reach more grieving children across the country.”
For those who have a grieving child in their life, here are a few insights into what they might be thinking and feeling, and how you can help, courtesy of The National Alliance for Grieving Children.
10 Things Grieving Children Want You to Know
#1 – I want to be told the truth.
Tell grieving children the truth, keeping in mind the child’s age and maturity level and the circumstances surrounding the death.
#2 – I want to know that there will always be someone to take care of me.
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.
#3 –My grief is long lasting.
Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life – they don’t “just get over it.” As a result, they will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.
#4 – I often cope with grief and loss through play.
Typically, children cannot sustain prolonged grief, so they use play as a way to cope with and to take a break.
#5 – I will always miss the person who died.
Love doesn’t die – grieving children will miss the person they lost for as long as they live.
#6 – I probably want to share my story and talk about the person who died.
Telling their story often helps a child heal. Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died. They also worry that others will forget their person, so it’s important to share memories about the person who died.
#7 – I might grieve differently from other kids.
Some children might be more expressive with their grief; some might keep it all in. Even siblings grieve differently, and it is important to honor each child’s story, even if it differs from their sibling’s.
#8 – I probably feel guilty.
Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt, even if it is not justified and has no basis in reality.
#9 – If I’m acting out, I’m probably feeling intense emotions of grief.
Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared. Because they might not know how to express these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.
#10 – If you’re not sure what I want or what I’m feeling, just ask me!
When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help. They want to talk about the person who died, or maybe not. They may want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their feelings.
The Moyer Foundation is a public, 501(c) (3) non-profit organization with a mission to provide comfort, hope and healing to children affected by loss and family addiction. Founded in 2000 by World Series champion pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen, The Foundation created and supports two signature programs. Camp Erin® is the nation’s largest network of free bereavement camps for grieving children and teens ages 6 – 17. Camp Mariposa® is a free, first-of-its-kind program for children ages 9-12 impacted by a family member’s addiction. For more information on The Moyer Foundation and its programs, please visit http://www.moyerfoundation.org.