Many people feel that grief comes when death sneaks in and steals someone we love. This is true- when a loved one dies, we experience grief. For many people, grief is expressed through tears, sadness, and loneliness. Some fall into a deep depression. Others may decide to channel their grief in more positive ways- maybe by focusing on work more, or picking up a hobby. All of these are important, and each method can be an effective way to deal with grief. The fact of the matter is… grief can come in many forms. The most important thing, however, is recognizing the signs and symptoms of grief.
It is also important to understand that grief is not simply experienced because of the loss associated with death. Grief can be defined as keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; or painful regret. Dictionary.com also defines grief as a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow. So while it is important to note that grief is associated with the loss of a loved one, it is also important to note that the term “loss” can be brought about by factors other than death.
When a child loses a parent as a result of divorce, shouldn’t that also be considered a form of “loss”? Could it be possible that a child might grieve much in the same way as if someone had passed away? If this is possible, then what can be done for those children who are experiencing this type of loss? What can be done to ensure that these children are able to receive the nurturing and support that should be given when one experiences grief?
Regardless of whether a child is experiencing grief because of death or divorce, they still need interventions that are designed to help them cope with, and overcome, the grief that they are experiencing. There are many signs that may accompany loss and/or grief. When children become nonchalant about the things in life that were once of importance to them, take notice. When there is a change in behavior, and that child is experiencing difficulties in school, take notice. If a child’s grades take a sudden decline, it is time to take notice. There are always signs…. no matter how slight. As a parent or caregiver, it is up to youto take notice of the changes that children may be experiencing. No one is going to advocate for a child the way his/her parents can.
There are many options that are available when it comes to helping a child get over the loss in his/ her life. Most importantly, parents need to spend time with their children and LISTEN to them. It’s okay, and actually encouraged, for parents to have “heart to heart” talks with their children. Being honest about what you are feeling, will help both the parents and children. When a parent walks away because of divorce, the parent that remains must be a strong foundation for the children that are involved. Children need to understand that the divorce was not their fault, and that they are still loved.
It may also be beneficial to enroll children who are experiencing loss in some form of counseling. Mental Health Counselor are equipped to handle these type of situations, and this also gives children additional opportunities to speak with someone about what they are feeling. In addition, keeping that child active and involved provides an outlet, allows the child to make friends, and may even give them an opportunity to blow off a little steam in a positive environment.
Divorce is something that no one wants to experience. However, for many families, it is a reality. Through it all, helping children cope with this loss should be a top priority for divorced parents. Realizing that grief is a part of life, is one thing. Actually taking the steps to cope with, and resolve, the effects of grief takes guts. Know , understand, and accept grief as a natural entity, and approach it accordingly. At the end of the day, when parents work together for the sake of their children, everyone can win.