How to Cope with Death and Dying in Children, Teen and Young Adults

What is Grief?
Each of us in certain time of life regardless age, socioeconomic and educational background is experiencing death someone they loved. When parent, family friends, or relatives passed away, young adults feel the overwhelming loss feelings from their heart as those are helping young adults to create their self-identity.

Grief Reactions
Grief can affect our body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Several ways to detect the signs of grief reactions are:
• Physical reactions: Slow or sudden changes in changes in appetite or sleep, an upset stomach, tight chest, crying, tense muscles, trouble relaxing, low energy, restlessness, or trouble concentrating.
• Frequent thoughts: The occurrences of happy or pleasant memories of the person who died, worries or regrets, or thoughts of what life will be like without the person.
• Strong emotions: The strong emotion could range from negative to positive one. For example, sadness, anger, guilt, despair, relief, love, or hope.
• Spiritual reactions: Different people will react differently in this term. Some people might try to find strength in faith, questioning religious beliefs, or discovering new spiritual meaning and connections.
When somebody has at least one or all of these reactions and emotions, we say they’re grieving.

Grief Rituals
The complexities of human’s personality are bringing uniqueness of how to express ourselves in daily life, including express of our loss feelings. Most of us will get together to seek support for preparing memorial services and funerals by contacting family and friends. These activities usually are helping the people most affected by loss for first few days. Depends on the person who die’s religious background, the family and friends are usually getting together in informal ceremonies for praying, sharing memories or even giving themselves time and place for talking about their loved one. Other alternatives ways to express mourn feelings in the next following weeks to the family members affected by loss like bring food, send cards, or continuously stop by to visit. There are no specific rules to express grief feelings. Everyone grieves differently. One people may want to talk about death, another may choose to cry. One maybe likes to write about their feelings in a journal, chat room or express their grief feelings in artistic ways. Others are choosing physical exercises or participating in sport events in the memory of the loved one.

How to Support?
Based on recommendation come from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado.
• Allow children, teens, and young adults to be the teachers about their grief experiences: Give them the opportunity to tell their own unique story and be a good listener.
• Don’t assume that every child or teen in a certain age group understands death in the same way or with the same feelings: All of us are different kinds of human beings and shaped by different kind of experiences in life, so does their understanding and interpretation the meaning of death of loved one.
• Grieving is a process, not an event: Give them ample of without specific time frame to grieve in the manner that works for each of them.
• Help all children, teens, and young adults regardless of age, to understand loss and death: Help them to provide necessary information they ask for about loss, death and grieve based on their development age. By doing this, it will help them to clarify, strengthen and empower their mind and heart to heal and then be able to bounce back into daily routine again. Death is a part of the cycle of life that children need to understand.
• Encourage children, teen and young adult to ask questions about death: Treat their questions with respect and a willingness to help them find his or her own answers.
• Don’t assume that children, teens, and young adults always grieve in an orderly or predictable way: There are no “correct way” in expressing grief feelings, though there are many grief theories out there.
• Let children, teens, and young adults know that you really want to understand what they are feeling or what they need: Often time, they do not know how to express their grief feelings and others see them just easily being upset. Providing supports, encouragement and lots of time to share their feelings with you, may give them time to “ work it out” their feelings.
• Children, teens, and young adults will need long-lasting support: The more death and losses the child, teen or young adult suffers, the more difficult it will be to recover. This is especially true if they have lost a parent who was their major source of support. Try to develop multiple supports for children and teens who suffer significant losses.
• Understand that grief work is complicated. A sudden or violent nature of the death can further complicate the grieving process.
• Be aware of your own need to grieve: Most of adult who have lost a loved one are not treating their grief as their main priority, their focus are on the children. For some families, seeking family grief counseling may be needed for getting extra supports beside friends and families.
• Display a lot of affection, maintaining physical and emotional closeness. Build and support the child’s/teen’s /young adult’s self-esteem.
• DO maintain appropriate discipline and boundaries. This helps the child or teen feel safe and secure. It also gives them a sense of control in a chaotic time.


by: Harucha Aly



Editor by: Berdi Dwijayanto, S.Psi.