13 Apr Helping Children Cope with Grief During A Pandemic
While the entire world scrambles to figure out how to navigate their ever-changing lives through this pandemic – there are grieving families that entered this space and time through the lens of grief. As schools, jobs and events are cancelled it is important to note that unlike these activities’ grief cannot be put on hold. Children who are grieving fall into a particularly special category as they may not have access to the same support that the adults around them do. So how can we help them navigate their grief while the world around them is busy grieving a very real, yet entirely different experience?
Here’s some suggestions:
- Reach out in “pandemically appropriate” ways: A phone call, Skype of FaceTime goes a long way. Be sure to mention the deceased’s name – it helps the child know it’s OK to talk about them.
- Find a safe place and space for children to take about their thoughts & fears: There are multiple online support services, children’s help lines and support groups available www.campjackie.ca. Nothing helps more than connecting with other children who are going through a similar experience.
- Remember that everyone grieves differently: Especially when it comes to children. There is no right or wrong way to grieve (as long as it’s not illegal, immoral or dangerous). You can support the bereaved child in what/how they need to grieve by recognizing and acknowledging grief from their perspective.
- Talk less, listen more: Mark Twain said if we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear. It’s not about saying the right or wrong thing – it’s about listening as they talk and asking questions such as: What might be helpful to you right now?
- It’s not just a one-time thing: Create regular intervals to reach out to bereaved families and please DO NOT forget to check in with the children. Even if they don’t want to talk, just a quick hello can go a long way to helping them know they are not forgotten and have their own feelings as well.
- Homemade or E-Cards: You can write some words of support or inspirational quotes and send them via email or post (where permitted)
- Refer to online support: Look for changes in behaviour – I use the FID scale: How Frequent is the behaviour? How Intense is the behaviour? and How long is the behaviour lasting (Duration). If it seems to be out of character or concerning, please refer the child for individual support if necessary.
Connecting with bereaved families and their children is important at any time. During this pandemic it has become an even greater necessity. I trust that you will find supporting bereaved children can be most rewarding for you while helping to remove that sense of isolation for them.