When grief strikes, emotions may shift from happiness to sadness, especially during the holiday period.
The CDC reports, “Grief is a response to loss, which can be caused by many things, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, getting divorced or going through other major life changes.”
Children are sometimes forgotten as time fades after a grief-giving experience occurs. Although Children’s Grief Awareness Day was Thursday, November 16, 2023, many people may not yet know that it exists. However, children need support to process losses in a healthy way, just as many adults do.
“Children’s Grief Awareness Day is an opportunity to make sure that grieving children receive the support they need,” according to www.childrensgriefawarenessday.org.
Marceia Cork, the owner of The Good Grieve LLC, holds certifications as a change practitioner and grief recovery specialist.
“Grief support looks different based on the provider and the modalities, but a grief support specialist is someone who is trained to provide emotional support to people who are experiencing loss,” she said.
Grief is often associated with a response to death. Cork further explained that when a parent loses a spouse, a child loses a parent.
“We support the adult for a time. We bring meals. We call the adults. The adult may get bereavement leave from work, but the child gets awkward smiles and ‘be strong for mommy or daddy,’ and gets sent back to school and activities to carry on because ‘kids are so resilient!’”
Matters such as being a military child who leaves friend groups behind, a child knowing that he or she has a learning difference, feeling neglected by a parent, a parent getting married, or family members moving can lead to grief, too.
Cork also said, “Again, children experience life alongside our adults— their breakups, a foreclosure, that job loss. Their drug and alcohol abuse in the home—all these things affect the child, too. And then the child has to go back to school and pretend that everything is fine and not point out those disparities at home.”
Overlooked issues connected with grief and children can even include dealing with food insecurity at home, during a season when the nation is talking about harvesting and feasting. Children who experience financial insecurity when other children around them talk about what they will receive as holiday gifts can also affect young people, according to Cork.
“Children are acutely aware of the differences in their home life compared to others, and they quickly learn— even more so in some cultures where children are taught to protect family secrets— that this is personal and they are to keep quiet about it. And they miss their loved ones during the holidays as well!”
Cork, the creator of the proprietary Good Grieve framework, authored “The Good Grieve: A guide for exploring what life can look like after loss, trauma, and hardship for adults,” and “My Good Grieve: A youth’s guide to navigating loss, trauma, and hardship… the good way!”
“My books release on Thursday, November 16, 2023, on National Children’s Grief Awareness Day. That was important to me because it’s a way of giving visibility to children’s grief in particular as we tend to begin focusing on adult grief and loneliness during the holidays. Let’s get children’s grief on the radar as well,” Cork said.
The Odenton, Maryland-based expert offers in-person and virtual grief support sessions nationwide for schools and businesses. Many of Cork’s clients have come to her while also going to traditional therapy, but Cork does not work with children directly.
She added, “Instead, I teach the adults in their lives–parents and caregivers, school faculty and staff– how to support young grievers and help them navigate the workbook. In sessions with families, I coach the parents as they support their children or during their sessions with me, I’ll coach the parent for repeating the exercises at home with their children.”
She further explained that children will not often have enough lived experiences or the vocabulary to communicate their feelings.
“So, children will typically mirror and absorb the way the adults around them respond to a life event or conflict,” Cork said.
Cork’s workbook for children can be utilized by youth as young as nine years old up to 18 years old.
“Younger children can work alongside an adult to assist families with embarking on a path for healthy conversations and coping skills as they navigate grief together,” Cork said.