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In the last section, we discussed the first of the five challenges of a grieving child. The first of the five challenges of a grieving child that we discussed was security. We also explored the four methods for reestablishing security. The four methods are actively manage the level of change in the child’s life, actively increase the level of predictability in the child’s life, deal with any of the child’s health concerns, and increase the child’s feelings of control.
In this section, we will continue to discuss the five challenges of a grieving child. The second and third challenges are understanding death and mourning death. We will also discuss the Grasping Reality technique and how to play Feelings Football, which is a technique for parents who need to help their children mourn.
#1 Understanding Death
♦ Technique: Grasping a Difficult Reality - 3 Steps
Do you agree that educating children about death should be done when the child displays a willingness to learn?
-- Step B - Facing the Reality of Death
Karen stated, "I find myself making mental notes about what to talk to her about when she gets home. I expect her home any minute and if I pass a cute sweater in the store I want to buy it for her. I know in my head she’s gone. I just don’t know it in my heart."
-- Step C - Avoid Distracting her from her Grief by Activities
In a later session, Rebecca stated, "While answering Kylie’s questions about death and helping her face the reality of Haley’s death, I seem to have begun to accept that Haley is really gone."
Think of your Rebecca and Kylie. Could their grief become more bearable if they work together to gain an understanding of death?
#2 Mourning Death
For example, Gary, age 34, became a single father when his wife, Kate, died from an infectious disease. Gary stated, "Joey’s only 9 years old. How can a kid that age deal with losing his mom? And how can I help him? I feel lost in despair when Joey cries about losing Kate. Because I don’t know how to help him, he’s been spending a lot of time at Kate’s parents house."
♦ Act as an ‘Emotional Coach.’
♦ Technique: Feelings Football - 3 Steps
Because Joey already enjoyed football, it was easy for Gary to integrate emotional coaching using football. If the child you are counseling enjoys other activities, recreate the "Feelings Football" technique around that activity. For example, another parent of a grieving child I treated stated that her daughter enjoyed baking. The parent and child made cookies together and used icing to create faces expressing various emotions.
Can you think of a way to recreate this technique to help a child mourn death? If you have found the information in this section applicable to a client you are treating, consider playing this section or parts of it in your next session.
In this section, we have discussed the second and third of the five challenges of a grieving child. They are understanding death and mourning death. We also discussed the Grasping Reality technique and how to play Feelings Football.
In the next section, we will continue to discuss the last two of the five challenges of a grieving child. The fourth and fifth challenges we will discuss are staying connected and resuming childhood.
Howard Sharp, K. M., Russell, C., Keim, M., Barrera, M., Gilmer, M. J., Foster Akard, T., Compas, B. E., Fairclough, D. L., Davies, B., Hogan, N., Young-Saleme, T., Vannatta, K., & Gerhardt, C. A. (2018). Grief and growth in bereaved siblings: Interactions between different sources of social support. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 363–371.
Review of Life & loss: A guide to help grieving children (2000). [Review of the book Life & loss: A guide to help grieving children (2nd ed.), by L. Goldman]. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 21(3), 141.