Talking With Children About Loss
Read an Excerpt on Helping Adolescents Cope
Parents, in particular, may feel helpless when faced with their child's intense sorrow. Know that your child will appreciate your support but may need to cope on her own terms, according to her own timetable, and with her peers. You ARE HELPING just by being there, although they may not feel that you are doing enough.
Strategies for supporting your adolescent…
- Expect mood swings and irritability
- Expect s/he may need privacy or wish to share feelings on her timetable
- Don't assume you know how your teen feels. Ask what s/he may need from you to help
- Be supportive 'at a distance'; that is, be available even though it may not appear that s/he is interested in your direct participation.
If your child was present at the accident and participated in any way with the rescue efforts, s/he was exposed to a traumatic event in addition to her grief.
Signs of traumatic stress that signal a need for professional help include:
- Hypervigilant behavior, increased startle responses, and trauma-related sleep disturbance
- Anxiety symptoms related to ongoing dangers and false alarms
- High risk and reckless behavior
- Overly inhibited or overly aggressive behavior
- Substance abuse
- Depression and suicidal preoccupation
- Attention, concentration and learning problems
- Trauma and loss reminders and retraumatization
- Demoralization in response to ongoing adversities and additional stresses, such as additional exposure to violence, loss of family members and friends, perceived failure in academic achievement and college acceptance process
- Radical shifts in interpersonal relationships
- Overly self-imposed restrictive behavior
- Changes in future plans
- Exacerbation of pre-existing behavioral problems and complications from prior trauma, loss exposure or histories of loss.