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Helping Children Deal With Loss ... /
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Helping Children Deal With Loss
Through the Journaling Process
Today more and more American
families are involved in the care of their loved ones.
Often that creates a change in family dynamics,
routines, reassigning roles, economic hardships and
demands on adult time and emotional stress for all
family members involved. The changes taking place can be
threatening for children. Change creates loss and loss
creates grief. A grieving child needs our reassurance
that he/she will be cared for and is loved.
It is extremely important to listen to your child
verbalize their fears, anger, confusion and doubts. We
should explain that grief and the feelings it evokes are
natural responses to loss. We must encourage our
children to let their sadness out by sharing their
thoughts, feelings and memories with trusted listeners.
We can be a trusted listener by encouraging them to
express themselves by drawing, writing and sharing their
feelings and thoughts through the process of keeping a
journal. Long-term illness impacts family life,
especially if your loved one is being cared for at home.
Illness can be sudden or it may creep into our loved
one’s life in stages as in Alzheimer’s disease. Our
loved one may be dealing with the loss of their health,
independence and in some cases, ultimately the loss of
life. The family will be dealing with these losses as
well. The changes associated with the disease are
threatening for our loved one, our children and
ourselves. Our children need our love and support to
help them cope with the grief associated with change and
loss. It is important to take the time to discuss the
disease with children so they can understand what is
happening to their loved one.
Children and teens may experience a wide range of
emotions. All too often, many caregivers are too
overwhelmed by their own shock, sadness and grief to
notice their children are grieving too. For children, as
adults, there is no magic wand in overcoming grief. It
is a process and it is as individual as the people going
through it. The stages of grief are not linear. There
will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys and the
inevitable bumps in the road. Shock, denial, anger,
regression, guilt, bargaining and finally acceptance are
the myriad of emotions that are part of the healing
process called grief.
For some children keeping a journal is a wonderful way
to facilitate the grieving process. Encourage them to
draw about their feelings. I call this type of drawing,
“heart art.” Young children think symbolically rather
than with the use of written words. Pictures reveal a
child’s thinking. Drawing actually helps children find
their words Journal exercises provide opportunities for
gentle discussions and can offer insights into a child’s
fears and misconceptions. Keeping a journal allows
children to creatively express themselves. Use their
drawings as a springboard for caring conversations. For
older children and teens, writing in a journal gives
them permission to record their feelings and emotions.
It allows them to feel close to their loved one and
remember happier times. It also provides an opportunity
to say good-bye. This is a very important step towards
acceptance in the grieving process.