the automatic emotional reaction human beings have to the experience of
loss. To let ourselves feel sadness, loss, emptiness, anger, loneliness
and pain which are a part of grief is difficult. The grief process is,
in itself, not harmful or permanently damaging. It is only when we do
not allow the process to occur or to complete itself that grief can
cause emotional, mental, vocational and physical harm even years later.
reactions which last over time require that your child understand that
something or someone is gone, never to return, and that s/he feels this
as a loss. Once a child has the mental and emotional capacity to
comprehend loss in this way (usually starting at about age seven), s/he
will experience grief. This is a predictable process which proceeds in a
loosely linear fashion. The purpose of this emotional process called
grieving is to acknowledge, experience, release and heal the powerful
feelings that are part of it.
a real emotion because it has both positive and negative aspects.
negative side are the shock, sadness, depression, anger, immobility and
loss of motivation with which we are all familiar.
positive side grief gives us an opportunity to feel and release current
feelings, as well as emotions which we may have blocked or repressed.
addition, the shock of loss urges us to examine our lives in order to
see what changes we want to make. Grief provides us with an opportunity
to strengthen ourselves and grow.
is an emotional process that follows a predictable process which
proceeds in a loosely linear fashion. The purpose of grieving is to
acknowledge, experience, release and heal the powerful feelings that are
part of it.
a) Loss. The event of loss through death, divorce, birth, illness or
major life change.
b) Protest. The mind resists accepting that loss has occurred. Feeling of
shock, confusion, denial, guilt and anger, along with lowered
self-esteem are part of this resistance. Behaviors which
accompany this stage of grieving include:
and sleep disturbances
and other physical changes
c) Despair. The reality of the loss is faced, which allows feelings to
begin to move. As the loss is accepted, a person may cry, feel anguish
or become depressed, especially if the anger that is felt is turned
d) Detachment. The shock of the loss leads the griever into a feeling of
being "in limbo," with resultant withdrawal, low energy, apathy and loss
e) Integration and recovery. When adjustment to the loss is accomplished,
a person begins to involve him/herself in life again, usually
incorporating a redefinition of how that life will be led. Behaviors
include taking an interest in the outside world, developing new and old
friendships, and starting new ventures.
Your Grieving Child Needs From You
a) Trust that your child is going through exactly what s/he needs to go
b) Honesty about what has happened and the feelings that come up (even if
they seem contradictory), so that the fact of the loss can be squarely
faced and processed.
c) Patience, which allows the grieving process to take as long as it
takes, without judgment. This can include answering questions which may
be asked over and over again.
d) Support and reassurance, that although loss has occurred in one area,
other aspects of life are still intact.
e) Sharing of feelings, allowing you to express your grief as well (you
are still in charge if you state that you choose to let yourself sob or