Teenage years can be confusing. Bodily changes, emotional swings, and mental challenges all come upon the teen at once. With all of these changes, comes life changes and new adaptations to Highschool and early adulthood. These things can lead teens to be very moldable and sensitive to others and peer pressure. With these changes, teens can have low self esteem and poor body image if they are not encouraged and complimented. These poor images can later in life also re-emerge in depression in adult life.
The article, “Teens with negative body image may experience depression as adults, study finds” by Kristen Rogers looks at this connection. She states,
“Adolescence is fraught with stressful changes, and the developing body can be one of those challenges, especially if a teen’s body doesn’t meet society’s — or that teen’s — standards. Negative body image can threaten mental health, according to new research that found teenagers who were dissatisfied with their bodies tended to experience depression as adults.”
Children grieve and process loss differently than adults. This a critically important concept for all grief counselors to grasp in their understanding of helping children deal with grief. Children depending on their age as well as mental and emotional maturity all process grief differently. Understanding this key concept can prevent numerous errors in child development when helping a child a through the process of grief.
In the past, emotional and mental barriers to development of children were innocently but ignorantly created by concerned caregivers seeking to shield children from loss. Children were denied final farewells at death scenes, or prevented from attending a funeral. Hiding death, even that of a family pet as simple as a fish, were all considered important steps in protecting a child’s innocence from death.
In reality, sparing children the realities of death, or diminishing the event of death caused more damage to the mental and emotional development of children. Children would then inherit improper coping mechanisms as adults when dealing with loss. They would also have grief complications with past losses. The inability to say good bye, find closure, or fully understand the nature of the loss crippled their abilities to deal with grief as adults.
In preventing these issues, adults, caregivers and grief counselors need to address loss to children. An explanation of the loss should correlate with the understanding and mental maturity of the child regarding the finality of death. Death and loss should be seen as opportunities for the child to learn about death, especially in regards to smaller losses.
In dealing with these losses, caregivers should express death clearly without any figurative language and also encourage children to express their feelings and thoughts. If a child wishes to express that is fine and if a child wishes to express less, that is fine. The importance is that children are able to express their feelings and know that life will continue.
It is critical to allow children to express themselves as they fit not only for their own understanding but also to dismiss any ill thoughts regarding the loss that may fester within the child. Children sometimes can blame themselves for the death of an individual or hold guilt that most adults would dismiss. It is hence important to discuss the death clearly but also to have a full understanding of the child’s understanding of the loss in relationship to him or her.
By responding uniquely to each child’s need during a loss based on the child’s understanding, one can eliminate any possible grief complications and also allow the child to fully express him or herself. This enables a better transition mentally, socially and emotionally.
To learn more how to speak to and understand grieving children, then please review AICHP’s Child and Adolescent Grief Counseling Program. The program is open to currently certified Grief Counselors and is offered as an advanced specialty program. Those who meet the qualifications can become certified in this advanced specialty field and learn to better help children cope with loss and grief.
The ultimate loss for a child is the loss of a parent. Thousands of children lose their parents and are in dire need of care and counseling. Some children lose one parent, while others lose both and face even greater alterations in their life. Hence in addition to the initial tragic loss and shock, there are waves of other secondary losses that affect the child. They continue to burn into the heart of the child and without care, can become emotional scars that never heal.
One must look at this type of loss from numerous angles. While the loss itself is terrible, there are numerous subjective elements to consider. Age is one of these things. The age of the child and the child’s comprehension of the loss play a key role. The younger the child is, the least traumatic the loss will be, while the older the child, the more the loss will affect them. Memories will be more numerous and the sting of the loss will take my adjustment. Depending on the child’s reasoning capabilities, some younger children with memories may even blame themselves with imaginary thinking that they may have caused their parent or parents’ death. This is why it is so key to discuss the loss in relation to the child’s age and their mental capability.
In this particular case, we will imagine a little girl, named Kelly, who lost her mother at age 9. This will allow us to focus more on a case study and what to expect. At the age of 9, Kelly will have definitive memories and also a traumatic break from her mother. It is important to allow her to grieve this initial loss. It is very important to understand her thinking regarding the loss. At age 9, she understands the finality of death. One does not need to speak in analogy, but it is important to be very cautious in explaining the spirituality of death. Some children will not understand why God or heaven took their mother. Hence, it is very important to use very concrete language that explains the loss. One can illustrate that mother is in heaven, but to articulate that God wanted mommy in heaven, or other such language should be avoided.
It is also important to illustrate to Kelly that the loss of her mother is not her fault. Some children will associate wishful or imaginary thinking as having true power. For instance, if a child was angry at a parent and exclaimed or thought something horrible happening to a parent, they will then associate their thought with the actual event even though they do not tie together. It is important to dispel such imaginary thinking to avoid future guilt complexes in the child.
In regards to Kelly, it is also crucial to ensure her wishes to participate in funeral rites are respected. Many individuals look to shield a child from the loss of a parent. They prevent the child from attending the funeral. It is crucial for the child to participate to her comfort level in the funeral rites. The finality is critical and the support received is equally critical. Kelly will need to be able to say goodbye to her mother and also share in the social grief with family. She needs to see that tears are important and that grieving is important.
Following this initial loss, she will grieve. She will continue to grieve. She will need her father and family to comfort her. There will be things no-one can ever replace that mommy did. As time proceeds, she should be encouraged to remember her mother and remember her life. She can frame special pictures or create small shrines to her mother. These are all important steps in adjusting to the loss over time. These steps do not come quick though and require time.
The loss will never truly ever leave. There will be reactions of anger and frustration towards others. There will be days worst than others. Birthdays and holidays will sting. Life events will always haunt her as other girls have their mother for prom, wedding day or the birth of a child. The loss can be reborn in small but yet still painful ways via events.
Ultimately, the loss will always be tragic but the key is to help Kelly adjust to the loss in a healthy way and continue her life and share the love of her mother with others through memories and stories.
The same holds true for an older child. A teenage girl can suffer as well. The memories are stronger and more numerous as the child ages. There is more than just a faint memory of not having a “mother” at a life event, but the one visually sees their mother herself. The sting will be more current because the person is older. As a teenager, the loss of a parent can trigger also other multiple issues with drinking and other bad behaviors. Teens have a difficult time due to the many changes already occuring in their lives. The transition can be very difficult and a loss can totally send a life into a tail spin.
Take for instance Judy, who lost her mother at age 15. With high school, becoming a woman, and dating boys, the need of a mother figure and losing her can be devastating for Judy. Judy could possibly go into a deep depression if her emotional needs are not met. In addition, she may exhibit a different type of guilt. She may have fought with her mother or at times not appreciated all her mother did for her. This can create a stinging type of guilt in her soul.
In addition, she may become resentful to her mother for leaving her, or resentful to her father, especially if a few years later he dates. She could become very angry towards any attempts to have her mother replaced. Furthermore as she experiences more life events, the fresh face of her mother will haunt her more than Kelly, who at age ten may have only distant vague memories.
So we have a multitude of scenarios. We can experience the loss from the eyes of a 9 year old in Kelly, or even through the eyes of Judy a 15 yr old teen. Then others may never know their parents. Their mother or father may pass while they are babies and never have the experience to know their parents. The loss of never knowing or meeting their parent may exhibit a type of grief of never having or possessing them in their lives.
So while numerous scenarios can exist in the loss of a parent, there remains one universal loss. The loss of a parent is pivotal to the very existence of any child at any age. In some way, the loss of a parent takes away a fundamental element of growing up and becoming an adult. Even as an adult, the loss can still sting as adults mourn the lack of their parents in their own children’s lives.
While children and adult children will eventually adapt to life without their parent or parents, the loss still always haunts. It will never be the same but the love can still be remembered. Through memories, story telling and sharing, the life of a parent can still shine for others. Legacies can be pushed forward and shared. Values or ideals can be instilled in others. While the loss is forever, the bond and love between parent and child is forever–and that can never die.
Those who experience more loss when young have different outlooks on life. Youthful grieving takes a toll but also prepares one for life and how to cope. It can also though if not handled correctly, cause future grieving problems. Hence it is important to help the young grieve properly.
The article,7 Ways Grieving When You’re Young Changes You, According To Experts, by Lindsey Mack states,
Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult at any age. But for children who experience grief at a young age, the effects of this loss may continue into adulthood. There are quite a few ways grieving when you’re young changes you in general.
Remember children need guidance during grief and bereavement. Hearing your voice and seeing your concern are big in their recovery
The article, Grieving children need your “I’m sorry,” too, by Jennifer Bannan states
“Last February, my 6-year-old son lost his father to cancer. His stepbrother, 12, and stepsister, 16, lost an amazingly present and enthusiastic stepdad.
And though I know their losses are as great, if not greater than mine, it took me until the evening of the memorial service one month after Brian’s death, around a bonfire with Brian’s high school friends who had traveled hours to be with us, to realize something.”
Good article about being honest with children about death. Each age has a certain ability to understand death and the information given should correspond with the maturity of the child to comprehend. The importance of discussing death with the child when it occurs is very important though and in some cases can provide critical life lessons to the child’s emotional and mental growth in experiencing death in his or her life.
The article, “Tell Your Children The Honest Truth About Death And Dying” by Shannon Burberry states
“Death is difficult for anyone to grasp, but it’s especially hard for children to understand. They will often ask “when is the person coming back?” or “when will we see them again?” It is my firm belief that honesty is the best policy, and it is important to be direct about what has happened.”
Knowing how to talk to your child about loss and grief is important. This article looks at how to talk to your child about loss.
The article, “How to talk to your child about loss, grief” by Kandice Beinfang-Lee states
“Death can be a difficult subject for parents and caretakers to discuss with children. Children feel and show their grief in different ways. How children cope with death can depend on things like their age and developmental level, their relationship to the person who died, and the support they receive.”
Helping a person overcome the loss of a child can be difficult
The article, “20 Quotes To Help You Heal After The Loss Of A Child”by Helen Luc states
“For a parent, losing a child can be the most devastating experience. The grief that comes from a loss this big might seem unbearable. It might also feel nearly impossible to talk to others about what you’re going through.”