Facing Bereavement for Youth
Francesca Balzano, Lily Spinelli, Molly Stedman
Why Topic Was Selected
BECAUSE WE’RE METAL.
On a more serious note, we all have an interest in helping those who are facing the loss of loved ones, specifically children and adolescents.
Honesty is best when discussing death, especially with children
Young children need less elaborate explanations of death but more assurance that the person dying loves them
3-5 years old: deny death exists
6-9 years old: believe death exists but only happens to some people
9 years old & up: death is final and universal
p. 584 in the textbook
Target children affected by death and dying in a support group setting
Children 6-18 years old
Older children serve as mentors
6-10, 11-14, 15-18
Advertise in hospitals: oncology clinics especially, referral by nurses/doctors, posters on walls
Headquarters separate from hospital: super comfy, floors for each age group, Sunday sessions
Workers: child psychologists, grief counselors, hospice workers, chaplain/religious counselors
Discovery: I have a challenge, how do I approach it?
As we know, death is inevitable, but we must find a way to cope with it. It’s not easy for children to develop successful coping mechanisms and skills to deal with death on their own – they need guidance.
Common reactions of primary school children dealing with death include blaming themselves, looking for the person who has died, feeling their presence, withdrawing, feeling anxious or distressed, feeling embarrassed or different, lack of eating or sleeping, toileting problems, etc.
Primary school children have reported feeling better about death after:
Frequent reassurance that they are safe
Keeping routines and normal activities going
Being told that it is okay to be sad – using words to describe feelings
Being allowed to ask questions and have answers provided honestly
Comfort items being provided
Encouraged to play and being allowed to process what has happened
Common reactions of older children dealing with death include being especially anxious of safety of family and friends, try very hard to please adults and not to worry them (not letting themselves grieve), feeling strong emotions such as anger and guilt, wanting to take on more adult responsibilities, etc.
Older children have reported feeling better about death after:
Having time to talk to loved ones about what has happened
Regular reassurance, including physical, such as a hug
Feeling understood and having time to grieve
Avoiding expectations of adult behavior
Teens (13-18) years:
Common reactions of teenagers dealing with death include being easily distracted or forgetful, having difficulty concentrating in school, academic decline, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty expressing intense emotions, blaming themselves, anxiety, questions or concerns in regards to death and dying, wanting to be surrounded by people more or be alone more, withdrawing, dreams about person who has died, bedwetting, risk-taking behavior, loneliness, depression, etc.
Teenagers have reported feeling better about death after:
Being honest with them about what’s happening
Be willing to listen and available to talk when needed
Acknowledging their emotions of fear, anger, and/or sadness
Having your loved one share their feelings with you
Being reassured that they are safe
Talking about what is normal in grieving processes
Keeping normal routines
Avoiding expectations of adult behaviors
Comfort through hugs, hand-holding, and encouragement
Being able to help with funeral planning, or something to remember the ‘loss’
Activities for Kids Dealing with Grief
Possible Reading Material
Approved by PSY 231
Trial groups for older children
Variable age groups and effectiveness of mentorship program
Which workers are most relevant for which groups and when
Personalized plans for different individuals
Session structure is not concrete
Topics for each session can be individualized based on group
Evaluation from both participants and supervisors
Variety of workers (clinicians, therapists, etc.) for division of work
Kept in check through surveys
Ask families how they found out about us
Kept in check through surveys
Day and time of sessions
Very flexible, can be based off of availability of members
Age groups or group dynamics
Ages separated according to grief development
Effectiveness of treatment in relation to dying person
Look for specific problem, alter that individual’s treatment plan
Treatment after death
Corr, C. A., Corr, D. A., & Doka, K. J. (2018). Death & Dying, Life & Living (8th
ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.
Santrock, J. W. (2018). A Topical Approach to Life-span Development (9th ed.).
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.