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Children and Grief By: Christine Gillan, Ed.S. © Unpublished work. C.L. Gillan. Pacific Union Conference, Office of Education, Early Childhood Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Children and Grief By: Christine Gillan, Ed.S. © Unpublished work. C.L. Gillan. Pacific Union Conference, Office of Education, Early Childhood Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Children and Grief By: Christine Gillan, Ed.S. © Unpublished work. C.L. Gillan. Pacific Union Conference, Office of Education, Early Childhood Education and Care Division, 2686 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village, CA, (805)

2 Loss History Patterns noticed: Very few or no losses in early life Traumatic loss in middle age Multiple losses very close together Losses spread out evenly, childhood through adulthood Series of tragic losses Series of tragic losses of persons closely related Multiple & major losses in later years Patterns noticed: Very few or no losses in early life Traumatic loss in middle age Multiple losses very close together Losses spread out evenly, childhood through adulthood Series of tragic losses Series of tragic losses of persons closely related Multiple & major losses in later years

3 Background... INFORMATION

4 Outline Crisis Definitions of Grief Stages of Grief Developmental Milestones Helping Children Through Life Transitions Crisis Definitions of Grief Stages of Grief Developmental Milestones Helping Children Through Life Transitions

5 C R I S I S Feelings… Predictable Experienced by everyone Feelings… Predictable Experienced by everyone

6 C R I S I S Disequilibrium can cause developmental suspension Disequilibrium can cause developmental suspension

7 Healthy Coping Realistic perceptions of the event Adequate situational support Adequate coping mechanisms Realistic perceptions of the event Adequate situational support Adequate coping mechanisms

8 What is Grief?

9 Grief is... Intense sorrow, great sadness, especially as a result of death, loss and/or change Intense, deep, and profound sorrow, especially due to a specific event or situation. Intense sorrow, great sadness, especially as a result of death, loss and/or change Intense, deep, and profound sorrow, especially due to a specific event or situation. Life transitions

10 The Five Stages of Grief

11 DENIAL BARGAINING DEPRESSION ACCEPTANCE ANGER

12 DENIAL Shock Numb Giddiness Disbelief Extreme emotions Shock Numb Giddiness Disbelief Extreme emotions

13 ANGER irritable RAGE self- pity pessimis m bitterness envy moody resentment irrational anxious restless demanding complaining raised voice crying hostile

14 BARGAINING Desperation Plea’s & Promises Quiet Guilt Attempts at reconciliation Desperation Plea’s & Promises Quiet Guilt Attempts at reconciliation

15 DEPRESSION Acute suffering Real guilt Trembling Self-reproach Dejected Feeling abandoned Withdrawn Sleeplessness FearfulRegretful Acute suffering Real guilt Trembling Self-reproach Dejected Feeling abandoned Withdrawn Sleeplessness FearfulRegretful Unresponsive Dizziness Unable to concentrate Powerless Lack of appetite Lack of confidence Emptiness Suicidal Unresponsive Dizziness Unable to concentrate Powerless Lack of appetite Lack of confidence Emptiness Suicidal Sense of meaninglessness

16 Reconnects Acceptance Future thoughts More hope More peace Happiness returning

17 Developmental Milestones

18 Young Children and Trauma Children are aware when there is great sadness and stress, especially as a result of marital problems, death, loss and/or change.

19 Research Developmental Stage Life Experiences

20 What we know Children think spontaneously about death; fear abandonment Understanding is progressive & developmentally/experientially based Children’s grief behaviors differ from adults Children may or may not mourn Children think spontaneously about death; fear abandonment Understanding is progressive & developmentally/experientially based Children’s grief behaviors differ from adults Children may or may not mourn

21 What we know, cont. Magical thinking fills in “the gaps” and helps to explain the unknown YC have thoughts & fantasies of reunion, including suicidal ideology Death of a parent or sibling increase risk of emotional disorders in adults Magical thinking fills in “the gaps” and helps to explain the unknown YC have thoughts & fantasies of reunion, including suicidal ideology Death of a parent or sibling increase risk of emotional disorders in adults

22 Developmental Milestones Infants – 2 Years Old Will sense a loss Will remember Will pick up on grief of a parent or caretaker May display behavioral changes May change eating, sleeping, toilet habits Will sense a loss Will remember Will pick up on grief of a parent or caretaker May display behavioral changes May change eating, sleeping, toilet habits Compiled from Keynote Addresses by J.W.Worden PhD at 1991 ADEC Annual Meeting. (Retrieved July 7, 2005 from: (American Red Cross, 2001, Helping Young Children Cope with Trauma)

23 Developmental Milestones 2-6 Years Old Takes language literally Plays/imitates grown-ups Functions on day-to-day basis Cannot imagine life without mom or dad Picks up on nonverbal communication Magical thinking Egocentric “If you wish it, it happens” Connects things not related Physical symptoms Takes language literally Plays/imitates grown-ups Functions on day-to-day basis Cannot imagine life without mom or dad Picks up on nonverbal communication Magical thinking Egocentric “If you wish it, it happens” Connects things not related Physical symptoms Death is reversible Death is sleep No understanding of time or death Thinks dead people continue to do things Death brings confusion, guilt Fanciful thoughts can be suicidal ideology (American Red Cross, 2001, Helping Young Children Cope with Trauma)

24 Developmental Milestones Years Old Egocentric thinking Still has magical thinking, outside the realm of the child’s realistic mind Confusion of wording “Why?” questions Egocentric thinking Still has magical thinking, outside the realm of the child’s realistic mind Confusion of wording “Why?” questions Personifies death Sometimes a violent thing Fails to accept that death will happen to them Fears that death is something contagious Develops an interest in the causes of death (American Red Cross, 2001, Helping Young Children Cope with Trauma)

25 Developmental Milestones Years Old May see problem as a punishment Develops strong sense of good & bad behavior Still some magical thinking Needs reassurance Theorizes “What happened?” questions Questions relationship changes caused by life changes Worries about who will provide & care for them May regress May see problem as a punishment Develops strong sense of good & bad behavior Still some magical thinking Needs reassurance Theorizes “What happened?” questions Questions relationship changes caused by life changes Worries about who will provide & care for them May regress May see death as punishment for poor behavior Begins an interest in biological factors of death Concerns about ritual, burying Questions relationship changes caused by death Interested in spiritual aspects of death

26 Developmental Milestones Teenagers Cognitive skills developed Thinks like an adult Needs adult guidance Needs someone to listen / talk with May feel guilt, anger, responsibility Not sure how to handle own emotions Attachment disorders Cognitive skills developed Thinks like an adult Needs adult guidance Needs someone to listen / talk with May feel guilt, anger, responsibility Not sure how to handle own emotions Attachment disorders Views death as inevitable, universal, irreversible Questions meaning of life if it ends in death Sees aging process leading to death Sees self as invincible Sees death as a natural enemy

27 Helping Children Through Life Transitions

28 Tasks for Bereaved Children Understanding Grieving Commemorating “Going on” Understanding Grieving Commemorating “Going on”

29 Victims & Vulnerability Direct victims Indirect victims Hidden victims Direct victims Indirect victims Hidden victims

30 Helping the Young Child Recognize your own feelings Share facts with families & children Monitor vulnerable children Address fears and fantasies Discuss issues specific to the situation – as appropriate & with parental guidance Support children Commemorate Establish stress strengtheners & coping mechanisms Recognize your own feelings Share facts with families & children Monitor vulnerable children Address fears and fantasies Discuss issues specific to the situation – as appropriate & with parental guidance Support children Commemorate Establish stress strengtheners & coping mechanisms

31 Tell parents... What is being seen Ask... To be kept informed

32 Encourage parents to... openhonest Be open and honest with the child Listen Listen to the child

33 Be Open and Honest Give the facts Share feelings Describe upcoming events Invite inclusion Give the facts Share feelings Describe upcoming events Invite inclusion

34 Listen to the Child Encourage questions Allow the expression of feelings Encourage commemorative activities Be aware of comfort/curiosity level Encourage questions Allow the expression of feelings Encourage commemorative activities Be aware of comfort/curiosity level

35 Inclusion... Allow child to visit hospital funeral home estranged spouse & family Allow child to visit hospital funeral home estranged spouse & family Make time... Plan for purposeful one-on-one time Keep Keep all routines and schedules

36 Empathize

37 Typical Behaviors Jealousy Guilt Rejection & Isolation Fear

38 Jealously is... Not enough attention Closely linked to anger Not enough attention Closely linked to anger Needs positive... avenues for expression

39 The teacher can...

40 It’s okay Reassure the child... It’s okay to feel jealous, but... Find some good ways to let out feelings without hurting others.

41 Children’s Feelings & Concerns Dolls/puppets Dramatic play Physical contact Clay & play dough Draw a picture / paint Large muscle movement Create a mural or collage Write a letter/poem/story/song Share experience in group discussions Dolls/puppets Dramatic play Physical contact Clay & play dough Draw a picture / paint Large muscle movement Create a mural or collage Write a letter/poem/story/song Share experience in group discussions

42 Commemorate Say a prayer Blow bubbles Light a candle Send a balloon Make cookies or cake Plant a flower/tree/shrub Make a memory gift/book/bag Make a tape/video of memories Put up a plaque/picture/statue/bird bath Say a prayer Blow bubbles Light a candle Send a balloon Make cookies or cake Plant a flower/tree/shrub Make a memory gift/book/bag Make a tape/video of memories Put up a plaque/picture/statue/bird bath Goldman, Linda. (Sept. 1996). We can help children grieve: A child-oriented model for memorializing. Young Children. NAEYC: Washington, D.C.

43 Guilt for...

44 Unrealistic Beliefs Angry thoughts for not “being good” for not being able to make things better for being healthy (and happy) for “going on” with life Angry thoughts for not “being good” for not being able to make things better for being healthy (and happy) for “going on” with life

45 The teacher can...

46 Assure the child... That it is not their fault and they can... Help by: Writing a letter, Drawing a picture, Making a tape, Praying, etc. Writing a letter, Drawing a picture, Making a tape, Praying, etc.

47 Rejection and Isolation

48 Excluded... Receives less parental attention – regardless of behaviors Excluded - despite interest Receives less parental attention – regardless of behaviors Excluded - despite interest Inadequate emotional support Information is inadequate, incorrect, confusing The Teacher...

49 with Reassure the child... That she is very important... To the: Teacher Class and Family Teacher Class and Family Communicate the Parent(s)

50 Fear is...

51 Most common emotion... It may happen to them (illness/death) Due to lack of knowledge, wrong info/changes Fantasies are far worse than reality (usually) Separation and/or abandonment It may happen to them (illness/death) Due to lack of knowledge, wrong info/changes Fantasies are far worse than reality (usually) Separation and/or abandonment The Teacher...

52 Reassure the child... normalgood That fear is normal & good They should: Talk to someone they love and trust Pray about their fears Talk to someone they love and trust Pray about their fears

53 Religion and Death “When someone dies his/her body stops working.” “When someone dies his/her body stops working.”

54 Danger Signals Extended depression Inability to sleep Loss of appetite Prolonged fear Angry outbursts Acting much younger Lasting behavioral changes Extended depression Inability to sleep Loss of appetite Prolonged fear Angry outbursts Acting much younger Lasting behavioral changes Excessive imitation Wanting to join the dead person Withdrawal Drop in school performance or refusal to attend school Inappropriate coping skills

55 Children and Grief Designed By: Julie Masterson Thank you for our attendance and participation

56 Children and Grief By: Christine Gillan, Ed.S.


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