Published September 2013
With practical tools, up-to-date research, humor, and reflection, facilitate healing and create a safe space for children’s age-appropriate grieving.
One out of seven children will lose a parent before they are 20. The statistics are sobering, but they also call for preparedness. However, professionals of all types are often at a loss when dealing with a grieving child. Talking to adults about death and grief is difficult; it's all the more challenging to talk to children and teens. The stakes are high: grieving children are high-risk for substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, isolation, and suicide. Yet, despite this, most of these kids grow up to be normal or exceptional adults. But their chance to become healthy adults increases with the support of a loving community. Supporting grieving children requires intentionality, open communication, and patience. Rather than avoid all conversations on death or pretend like it never happened, normalizing grief and offering support requires us to be in tune with kids through dialogue as they grapple with questions of “how” and “why.” When listening to children in grief, we often have to embrace the mystery, offer love and compassion, and stick with the basics.
About the Author
Joseph M. Primo is Executive Director of Good Grief, Inc. in Morristown and Princeton, New Jersey; and President of The National Alliance for Grieving Children. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and a former hospice chaplain, Primo is the author of The Business of Grief in At the End of Life: True Stories about How We Die; and blogger for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. He has appeared on CNN and Fox as a grief advocate.