8 Ways to Support Children & Teens with Grief & Loss
School counselors report that the outcomes of the pandemic impact student social-emotional and physical health, including the volume of stress, grief, and loss our students experience. Students may experience additional bereavement, isolation, loss of family income, inadequate supplies, inadequate medical care, increased levels of alcohol and drug use within the home, infection related fears, insomnia, anxiety, frustration, boredom, confusion, and anger.
- LISTEN: Provide a safe place for the student to talk and share their feelings. Validate their feelings.
- LET THEM FEEL: When students experience grief / loss, students may express a range of emotions such as anger, sadness, pain, shame, and guilt. They may not be able to verbalize what they are feeling. It is important to not minimize emotions, tell students how to feel, or put a positive spin on things.
- ENCOURAGE COPING SKILLS: Help the student find healthy ways to cope with emotions. Examples may include deep breathing, taking breaks, going for walks, gratitude jars or journals, and artistic expression. Students may identify what works for them and participate in coming up with a plan when feelings arise.
- SELF CARE: Put on your oxygen mask first! You can serve as a role model for the student.
- UNDERSTAND THAT GRIEF COMES IN WAVES: Some days will be easier than others. Help students find a way to let you know when they are having a rough day.
- ROUTINES: Students need routine and normalcy to feel in control, supported, and comforted. Keep limits consistent and clear to provide a safe environment.
- ASK FOR HELP: Identify the student’s support system. Look for resources available in the community and at home. Include the school counselor.
- MAKE NEW MEMORIES: Remind the student that it is okay to be happy and to make new memories.
*The information above was modified from a 2020 National Alliance for Grieving Children workbook. https://www.caredimensions.org/grief-support/childrens/childrens-grief-resources.cfm
The image includes a quote by Brene Brown. Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “you’re not alone.”