"Embrace your grief, for there your soul will grow." Carl Jung
As you may know, the majority of my practice is made up of families and kids (of all ages). Working with families was my catalyst for entering into this profession, has been one of the best parts of my job and brings a lot of life into my office. I believe I’ve invested quite a lot of time and energy into understanding kids and teens, and learning how to help families feel more connected.
So when the quarantine hit, I felt fairly confident that I could anticipate what would cause kids and teens the most distress during this time. Surely they would absolutely love being out of school and would feel a lot of anxiety around this mysterious virus and would think about all the fun things they could do while being at home.
And (for the most part), I was wrong.
What I have come to see and hear over the last several weeks is this: kids and teens are grieving too.
Grieving not being able to go to school and see those best friends and that favorite teacher.
Grieving prom being cancelled and graduation going online.
Grieving the loss of life being “normal” and the world feeling “safe.”
Grieving the disappointment of a certain school year ending so differently than anticipated.
Grieving time at home with parents who have to work long hours.
Grieving time at home with a family that lives together but feels so disconnected, and having to face that day after day.
Grieving a special birthday party that turned into a drive-by.
Grieving the friends you can only see with a screen.
While grief for kids and teens may not necessarily be about unemployment or political tension or existential distress, their grief is just as real and valid.
So how do we help?
I believe one of the best ways to support a child/teen in grief is to acknowledge and validate its presence, and then ask what s/he may need.
“I know you miss your friends so much. It feels pretty awful. Is there anything we can do to help that feel better?”
“I can’t believe your senior prom isn’t going to happen. I know you were so looking forward to that and it breaks your heart. Ugh. Want to do something else that night?”
“I hear you, playing with your friends on Zoom is not as fun as when they come over. What’s the first game you want to play with them as soon as you can go to their house?”
I know we want to protect kids and teens from grief, and sitting with them in it is one of the best ways to help them weather the storm.
With you and for you,