It is important to understand that children grieve. Children may not grieve the same way as adults after the death of a loved one, after the death of a friend, or from being confronted by a violent situation. But children do grieve.
Today, we live in neighborhoods, communities, societies, and cultures that have no similarity to the way people lived fifty or sixty years ago. Yes, life presented a myriad of challenges back then. But there was a sense of community, a sense of neighborness, and a sense of family in America’s tapestry that helped to heal some of the pain and the hurt that resulted from grief.
It seems as if today’s problems, even the world’s problems, have multiplied exponentially in the past thirty years. People, even children, are exposed and overwhelmed by so much aggression and violence that can be seen on television, through social media, and even in their own neighborhood and community.
When children are exposed to death and to violent situations, I believe that parents and caregivers need to have age-appropriate honest-talks with their children. Honest-talk is about keeping it real and not engaging in unrealistic, fantasy type conversations. (Please be mindful that children are very intelligent and very perceptive.) When children are given a safe space and permission to talk about their feelings, parents and caretakers need to listen.
Grief is about feelings. And in order for children to heal from a loss in their life, they must know that it is okay to talk about their feelings. The expression of feelings can be uncomfortable to the listener, but the listener must listen.
Today’s culture is fast-paced. Almost everyone is in a rush, and it seems that everything must be done in a nanosecond. Sometimes, it seems as if people do not have time or will not make the time for the special people in their lives. But when grief interrupts our children’s lives, we must stop whatever we are doing, and we must give our children the attention, the love, and the care they so rightfully deserve so that they can feel safe and thrive.
There will be several future lessons related to children and grief, and this is just an introduction.