Losing a loved one is never easy, regardless of how old you are. As adults, we all experience grief and mourning during bereavement, though all in different ways. Children, on the other hand, experience feelings and emotions in a completely different way.
Because of these differences, adults often think children don’t fully understand the loss, or have simply recovered quickly. Usually, neither is true. Becoming absorbed in an activity is a normal way to deal with the emotions instead of shutting down or openly grieving.
Not being able to sort out the feelings or put them into words is also a common reaction to a loss. Children may even open up to complete strangers (e.g. “My Grandma just died.”) to see how they react, to get clues as to how they should be acting.
The feelings of loss may come back over and over as the child gets older, more so at important points in life like graduation, getting married, and having children.
Home Health United-Hospice helps families deal with grief during the hospice period and for 13 months after the loved one’s death. This summer, HHU held a day camp for the first time specifically for children. Camp GLOW was open to kids in the communities HHU serves, free of charge, and featured breakout sessions and activities designed for kids.
“HHU-Hospice focuses a lot of time and energy on the grieving process of our patients’ loved ones, but we wanted to do something more for the kids that are grieving,” said Mike Amberg, HHU-Hospice spiritual counselor. “The trained staff and volunteers worked with the kids on activities specially designed to tap into the children’s feelings and emotions in a natural way; the last thing we wanted was to upset the kids or make them relive the loss in a negative way.”
One of the best tools kids have to help them deal with grief is through their parents, guardians or other adult family members. “The adults in these kids’ lives are dealing with the loss themselves, so they need help processing all the different emotions, both the kids’ and their own,” Amberg said. “Camp GLOW had separate sessions for the adults, and we’re starting a Family Series Grief Support Group in Baraboo next month to continue to help.”