COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF GRIEF
٠Clinging, whining, crying
٠Inability to eat
٠Inability to sleep
٠Physical symptoms of the illness experienced by the loved one who has died (Example: brain tumor –> migraine headaches
COGNITIVE & EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS
Forgetfulness: Children may forget school assignments, book reports, or backpacks at home.
Help the child establish routines or develop schedules. Remind them to writedown important things.
Disorganization: It may take a grieving child an hour to do what previously took 15 minutes.
Allow ample time to complete a task.
Inability to concentrate: Do not be surprised to see children “day dreaming.” It may be hard for them to stay focused, and their grades may go down for a while.
Be patient and refocus the child – breaking information into smaller segments and again allowing ample time to complete a task.
Inability to retain information: Educators/parents can help children change their study habits by using some of the following study aids:
Outline reading material.
Highlight important facts.
Read “out loud” instead of to oneself.
Complete homework in segments. Encourage children to work in 20-minute segments with 5-minute breaks.
Have a “weekend party” with friends to help the grieving child catch up with piled up homework due to missed school days.
Preoccupation with the event: Children may appear to be "day dreaming" because their minds will wander back to what has happened. Even if they are doing something they enjoy, like watching a football game or a soap opera, they will find their mind going back to the situation at hand.
Sometimes working in small increments of time will help them to stay focused and on task.
Lack of interest or motivation: Even if children are doing something they love, they may be thinking about what has happened to them. Caution grieving children to be careful to avoid a “why bother” attitude.
Encourage children to use their experience to reach out to help others in need.
Lowered tolerance level and increased impatience: Grieving children may be impatient – especially if someone complains of something they think is trivial – i.e., a “bad hair day.”
Make other children more aware of what and how they say things around the grieving child – especially around holidays, birthdays, & anniversaries.
Remind the grieving child not to take grief out on other people.
DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES AND GRIEF
•Understand specific concrete information.
•Question concept of death:
What is dead?
What makes people die?
Where do they go when they die?
How do dead people sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom?
How do you visit a dead person?
•Regard death as reversible and not final.
•Challenge the concept of “forever.”
•Believe that if they are careful, death will not happen to them.
Ages Five to Nine
•Believe death is a person, spirit, bogeyman, or ghost.
•Enjoy ghost stories but would never go into a cemetery at night because it would be too scary.
•Think death is real but only happens to old people.
Ages Nine to Ten
•Believe that death is an end to bodily life, is final, happens to all (even to children), is caused by illness, old age, accidents, murder, and suicide.
•Have nightmares about their parents dying.
•Romanticize and dramatize death, as in literature (Romeo & Juliet), music, or films.
•Fantasize about own death and funeral.
•Challenge death by participating in daredevil activities such as drag racing or drug experimentation.
American Hospice Foundation
2120 L Street NW
202-223-0204 Fox 202-223-0208