Bereavement is a terrible experience for anybody, young or old. If your child is suffering then help is at hand.
Your children may be trying to protect you!
Children and teenagers will quickly realise that you are as upset as they are. They may be scared by this, consciously or otherwise. After all, parents are meant to be all-powerful, aren’t they?! They may try to nudge you back into strength by hiding their own feelings or mothering you into managing yours.
Their grief will often be expressed in different ways
Bereaved children can become clingy, as they attempt to protect and stay close to the people they have left in their lives. Sadness and tears may be swallowed down, with the result of their erupting to the surface in fits of rage, depression or anxiety.
Rarer reactions may include issues such as conversion disorder, where the repressed emotional response is converted into a physical symptom. One young man I worked with, for example, had lost a loved one and the grief had turned him functionally blind.
Anxiety, depression and anger may mean that schoolwork suffers as the grieving child experiences a form of existential angst. ‘What’s the point?’ It’s a valid enough question but children and young people are ill-equipped to come up with their own answer.
Parents, teachers and other involved parties will empathise but one by one they will begin to clamp down on the less socially desirable behaviours. Grief then turns to anger and conflict and this may become a self-perpetuating cycle.
Counselling and other forms of therapy could help your child to process their grief
Play therapy, arts, crafts, music, counselling, adapted forms of mindfulness and even hypnosis can be utilised to help your child process their grief. There is no magic cure, of course, but a neutral space in which a child or teenager can vent and feel understood can be an incredibly powerful means of coming to terms with the unbearable.
If your young person needs help in dealing with their grief then get in touch. I’ll be more than happy to talk with you of how I could help. I work in Reading, Oxford, London, Wallingford and Thame.