Grief Counselling for Children | Is Grief Counselling is Helpful


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This is my first post for this year. 2020 started with more challenges, some to do with my physical health and my children falling ill on and off. For those who are reading my blogs for the first time. I would like to introduce myself. I am Nisha Ravishankar, a certified experiential counsellor who just wrapped up an advanced course in counselling children and adolescents. And today we will talk about grief and children, talk about grief counselling for children.

Just two weeks back, I came across some distressing news that my friend met with an unexpected car accident. That week followed with the whereabouts about their family condition since all the family members were involved in the accident. It was reassuring to know that the children were unharmed and safe. I was immersed in prayers for my friend, her husband and children. I held on a thin line of hope. As we got updates from the hospital minus the factual details, my thoughts oscillated between recovery and fear of the unknown. The nights were tough as I reflected on the memories and time spent with her. The whole process ranged with a wide set of emotions from sadness, anger to helplessness. Last week I got the dreaded news that my friend succumbed to life. The thought was difficult to digest especially thinking about her family whom she left behind (two children aged 10 and 2, her husband who is undergoing several surgeries and is unaware of her demise)

The hard reality of life sunk in. I was still in absolute shock and denial as my association with her was very close. I also did my share of bargaining. I did bribe to my devoted God that I would avoid any physical or mental harm and consciously strive to do good. I still held on to hope...The memories are fresh, It is like the incident did not take place.

Today I browsed through the five stages of grief coined in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a swiss psychologist (sixth stage - Making Meaning is recently coined by her colleague David Kesslar) - Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. Recent research says that these stages do not happen in a particular order and people might experience one or two of the stages. The present stages I can resonate are Denial and Anger.

I was curious to know how children come to terms with grief. My friend's older daughter has just reached her formative years. How much can she comprehend what has happened to her? Does she find her mother's shoes too heavy to fill?
I came across a children discussion guide on death and grief which is ok to start with basic exploration with your child who has experienced sudden loss of a loved one.

Depending on their age, stage of development, personality and prior experiences the children have various acting out behaviours of grief. Some of them are emptiness, sadness, explosive emotions or lack of feelings.

Grief Counselling for Children? | What can caretakers do to enable coping mechanisms in grieving children?

What can we do to enable coping mechanisms in grieving children, is grief counselling for children, in this case, is helpful? The ways we will do, so that grief and children away from each other are the following:

  • Give space for children to ask the 4 Ws (What, Why, Where, When ) plus How in their open-ended questions, It is better to get the facts right at the beginning.
  • Physical space also matters. Somedays they might not want to interact with the rest of the family. Let them be in their room with a light nudge that you understand their grief and are available anytime they want to reach out.
  • It is important to use real words like death or died. Metaphors, like she passed away or has joined the stars, are too abstract and puts the children in a vulnerable and unchangeable space.
  • Give words for their feelings and express your feeling to rationalise their emotional state.
  • Children need ongoing attention, reassurance and support as they grieve. Emotions will come out in heavy bursts or mild spurts. 
  • Keep the daily routines fixed and normal as possible. 
  • Positive strokes can be unlimited in the form of hugs, cuddles, holding their hands. Comfort items like soft toys and comfy blankets can be offered.
  • Use media like sand tray, puppets, paint kits, poetry to channelise what the children might be feeling.
  • In the case of older children, try not to impose adult responsibilities all of a sudden. Allow them to be their age. 

Till then Happy Parenting :) Do comment on how did you like my blog? What steps have you taken as a parent to contain your child during any form of loss?

Please share your views.


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