Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss

Helping children cope with grief and loss is sometimes difficult for parents, especially if they are equally affected. In this episode of Coffee with Consultants, mental health therapists Michele and Stephanie discuss the causes of grief and loss, how to looks for symptoms in young children, and ways parents can help their children cope with their feelings.

We tend to think of grief as something that occurs when a child loses a loved one,  or a friend or family member passes away. However, there are many things that can cause a sense of grief or loss in children. Some of the most common things are the loss of a pet, moving to another place, saying goodbye to a friend, or starting a new school.

In recent months, many families experienced a lot of changes due to Covid. Children may have been isolated out of school or did not get closure and say goodbye to friends due to school shutdowns or other variables.

grief and loss In young children, grief can present itself in different ways. Maybe times it shows up in behaviors; one of the most common being regression. Michele uses the example of a child that was previously potty trained but started having accidents as a result of a sense of grief and loss. In an older child, a sign of grief might be a typically outgoing child becoming withdrawn or the grades of a straight-A student declining.

If children begin showing any of these behaviors, it’s important for parents to assess what might have happened to initiate feelings of grief and loss as it’s not always obvious.

“When children grieve it’s in these little chunks,” Stephanie explained. “One minute they might be playing and the next they are acting withdrawn. Grief can also appear as a stomach ache or other physical symptoms.”

Stephanie also mentioned the potential for delayed grief which can appear seemingly out of nowhere having parents scratching their heads.

Michele and Stephanie both recommended books for helping children deal with grief and loss and also mention a free program provided by The Florida Center’s community partner Tidwell Hospice which offers children grief services under its Blue Butterfly program.