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How to Help Children Grieve

By February 3, 2020NESCA Notes 2020

By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations

and

Cynthia Hess, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow, NESCA

Oftentimes, the loss of a celebrity may be a child or adolescent’s first experience with loss or grief. Many this week who grew up admiring the talents of Kobe Bryant are unfortunately finding themselves in this group. Even when a child has never met the celebrity who perishes, they may feel as though they just lost a good friend.

If you are looking for guidance on how to help manage your child’s grief as it relates to the loss of a “hero,” we have some pointers to share with you. Most of these tips are also appropriate for the loss of a family member or close friend.

  • Talk about your child’s feelings openly, but try to let them approach you first. Normalize their feelings and validate them.
  • They will have questions about what took place, so be prepared to answer them and provide information to a developmentally appropriate degree.
  • Answer questions directly and truthfully, trying not to overly soften the information, as this can be confusing for children (e.g. “gone to heaven” is abstract, “died” is clear and concrete).
  • When it comes to celebrities or public figures who die, set limits around how much information your child is accessing within the media (i.e. keep access to television news limited, monitor internet use, etc.). An important aim is to not only control the influx of information, but also control the visuals that they are exposed to – preventing exposure to video clips and images that may be scary and difficult to let go of. With today’s 24-hour news cycle and on-demand access, there is just too much available to watch, so stay on top of what they see.
  • Be sure to pay tribute to the person who has died. It is important to share memories of that person. Let your child know that it is okay to talk about them.
  • While a death or tragedy is thankfully not a common occurrence, try to maintain the typical schedule that your child is accustomed to. Adhering to a “normal” routine will help them feel a sense of stability while learning to cope with loss.

Resources:

Talking With Children About Loss; Words, Strategies, and Wisdom to help Children Cope with Death Divorce and Other Difficult Times by Maria Trozzi

For loss of pets: All Dogs Go To Heaven by Lu Pierro and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst

https://www.nypl.org/blog/2017/07/21/childrens-books-about-loss-and-grieving

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/7-touching-books-to-help-kids-understand-death-and-grief.html

https://childmind.org/article/helping-children-deal-grief/

https://childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-grief/

 

About the Authors:

Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.

 

 

 

Dr. Cynthia Hess recently graduated from Rivier University with a Psy.D. in Counseling and School Psychology. Previously, she earned an M.A. from Antioch New England in Applied Psychology. She also worked as an elementary school counselor and school psychologist for 15 years before embarking on her doctorate. During her doctorate, she did her pre-doctoral internship with RIT in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked with youth ages 5-17 who had experienced complex developmental trauma. Dr. Hess’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with The Counseling Center of New England where she provided psychotherapy and family therapy to children ages 5-18, their families and young adults. She also trained part-time with a pediatric neuropsychologist conducting neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Hess is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychological assessment, working with NESCA Londonderry’s Dr. Angela Currie and Dr. Jessica Geragosian.

 

 

To book an evaluation with Dr. Currie or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call (603) 818-8526.