Dear UWCEA Community,
We know that our community has just begun to process the death of our dear family member Faith Yona. Due to many factors, we are experiencing grief in different ways at this time. Based on developmental level, the type of relationship, previous (or lack thereof) experience with death, and a host of other factors, we will find members of our community in different phases of grief throughout the coming days and weeks. It will be important to recognize this, and support one another at whatever stage we find each other in throughout the healing process. In addition, it is important to note that as our community goes through the grieving process, everyone will express their grief in a multitude of ways. There is no definitive way to grieve, but it is helpful to better understand what grief looks like, and educate our children so that they know what to expect for themselves and/or others that they interact with throughout this difficult time.
One thing to keep in mind is that communication is important at this time, as is being aware of the different developmental levels that children are at when you begin talking about a death. As you continue to have conversations with your child about death, here are some things to consider from a recent Child Mind Institute article on explaining grief to children:
- Follow their lead. The kinds of questions and concerns that children have can be very different from those of adults. Giving children too much information can overwhelm them. It is better to let them ask questions and then answer in the best (and most developmentally appropriate) way you can.
- Encourage children to express their feelings. Do not try to “protect” or “shelter” children by attempting to hide your own sadness. Hiding your own grief can also make children feel like the sadness they may be feeling is bad.
- Maintain normal routines as much as possible. Grief takes time but children benefit from the security of regular routines and knowing that life goes on.
- Memorialize the person who died. Remembering is part of grieving and part of healing. This can be as simple as sharing memories of the person who died or bringing up the name of the person who died so that your child knows it’s not taboo to talk about and remember that person. It is important to keep photos around, too.
When experts talk of the grieving stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in a logical sequence, it may sound superficial compared to what is being felt in the moment. In addition, there is no definitive timeline on grief, but it is essential to be aware of the stages in order to ensure a person is not staying stuck in any one phase for an extended period of time without proper support. Lastly, although the stages are listed in order, circumstances can occur that cause a person to return to an earlier stage, or seem to pass over a stage. This is something to be aware of as you assist your child, or others, through the grief process. If you would like more information on this, please contact me so I can help.