Grief is a natural response to experiencing loss and can affect both adults and children. Grief can be confusing and lonely and many children go without the support they so desperately need through what is an incredibly challenging time in their life.
Family therapy may assist children and their families in processing their emotions, learning effective coping strategies and coming to terms with loss. A child who has a terminally ill loved one can also benefit from mental health support. Family therapy can help with coming to terms with their loved ones particular circumstances.
Discussing the Death and a Loved One
Talking about death with your child is an important part of helping them deal with a loss. Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased person and encourage conversations about them. This person might be a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend or a pet. Many parents avoid discussing the dead, believing that doing so would protect their children. However, avoiding talking about a loved one who has died might make the child feel uncomfortable, fearful or excluded.
You may also encourage your child to create a memory box, which will include items that remind them of time spent with the deceased loved one or establish a new family tradition to honour a loved one.
Build Your Child’s Emotional Literacy
Children experience the same emotions adults do. However, they often lack the language to articulate what they are experiencing, choosing instead to vent their feelings in inappropriate and destructive ways.
So, help your child recognise and manage difficult emotions, because this is critical for moving through grief and healing.
Bereavement in children may take different forms. For example, your child may become aggressive or angry because children cannot often understand or express difficult emotions such as grief.
Anger may serve to mask other painful feelings (grief, shame and uncertainty) that are too heavy to cope with.
A qualified family therapist can assist your child as they move through their grieving and unpack these challenging feelings with the aid of the therapist and the family.
How Family Therapy Can Help Children Who Are Grieving
Family therapy at Leone Centre may assist you in overcoming loss and sorrow so that you can face reality and go on. Family counselling focuses on interactions between family members, helping the grieving family members:
- Develop more successive coping strategies
- Manage extreme emotional reactions
- Cope with stress
- Improve communication
- Work through trauma
A family therapist at Leone Centre can help you and your child understand the stages of grieving and comes to terms with your loss.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist and one of the first people to study near-death experiences, developed the “five stages of grief” model. This model is used today to explain how people deal with a loss.
- Most adults and children go through the “this isn’t happening to me” stage following a loss, refusing to accept reality. However, sadness is inevitable and this phase helps us be ready for it until our minds accept it.
- After the initial shock, your child may grow furious at the deceased for leaving them, their friends who still have a parent, sibling, etc., in their lives and so on.
- Your child may get stuck in thoughts like “If I could do something to bring them back.”
- Your child starts accepting the situation at this stage. However, acceptance comes with despair, helplessness and emotional weariness.
- During the last stage of grief, your therapist will help you and your family accept the loss and understand how it will change your lives.
Family Therapy at Leone Centre
A BACP and UKCP registered family therapist at Leone Centre can assist you in recognizing and addressing the symptoms of complicated grief – grief that lasts longer than a year and makes it difficult for a child to get through their daily routine.
Complicated grief adds a lot of stress to your child’s life and can hurt their mental and physical health, making them overwhelmed by sadness. As a result, they may avoid social interactions, do poorly in school and feel tired most of the time.
Your Leone Centre family therapist can help your family find ways to deal with grief, help a child who is having trouble and improve everyone’s mental health.
In short, family therapy at Leone Centre can be a secure environment for your child to learn to accept the reality of the loss, work through their pain, adjust to life without the loved one and rebuild their life.