Pastoral Care Guidance for Deacons, Stephen Ministers, and the Congregation of River Road Church, Baptist
Care of Children in Grief
- Death education (thanatology): Should occur at each stage of childhood.
- Create a caring relationship (children suffer more from loss of parental support than from the death itself).
- Questions are often asked not so much for information, but to process reality.
- Sensitivity and warmth/ communication of acceptance/ desire to understand.
- Any child mature enough to love is mature enough to grieve.
- Factors influencing a child’s response: developmental age of child, relationship with the person, nature of the death, the child’s personality, availability of support, former experiences with death.
- Common childhood responses to grief:
- lack of display of feelings
- physiological changes
- regression/”adult” role
- disorganization & panic
- explosive emotions
- acting-out behaviors
- relief (extended crisis)
- Skills in caregiving: Attending/acknowledging/listening/responding with empathy/paraphrasing/perception checking/pacing/questioning/summarizing (see Alan Wolfelt, Helping Children Cope with Grief).
- Tell-A-Story exercise.
Grief can also be:
- Ambiguous (MS, Alzheimer’s, Mental Illness)
- Anticipated (Separation, move)
- Arrested or Inhibited (somatic symptoms)
- Delayed / Conflicted / Chronic
- Disenfranchised Grief (AIDS, Abortion, Suicide, Rape)
- Unanticipated (Accident, Homicide)
- Make sure you do your own grieving.
- Examine your own foundational attitudes/beliefs about grief/death.
- Gather grief information/resources.
- Be prepared for the intimacy of sharing someone else’s grief.
- Recognize our limits: know when to introduce/refer.
- Let the griever teach you about her/his grief road.
- Know that you are not alone.