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Does My Child Need Support?

When a loved one dies, we know our children are affected. We may see their tears; they may get angry; or often, they “just don’t seem like themselves.” While we know they are hurting, we wonder whether they need extra support.

How do I know?

At the Highmark Caring Place, we believe that many people will need some type of support after a loved one dies. The type of support that is most beneficial to any particular family is as individual as the family itself.

Each Caring Place facility has several Child Grief Specialists who can help you decide if a peer support program is the right fit for your children and your family. Having worked with many grieving children, Caring Place staff members have seen many different ways that children experience grief. When you contact your local Caring Place, a Child Grief Specialist will talk with you about your family to help you make the best decision for you and your child(ren).

What Grieving Children Have Taught Us:

  • Every person grieves differently. Children certainly grieve in different ways from adults, but they also may grieve in different ways from other children. Even two children who have lost the same family member may grieve that loss in very different ways.

  • Children's feelings of grief may be hidden deep inside. Young children may lack the words to express how they feel while older children and teens may avoid expressing their feelings so that others don't label them as different or unusual. Children of any age may hide their feelings from adult caretakers so that they don't upset their adults who are also grieving.

  • The intensity of grief can be too much for a child or teen to handle all at one time, so they might appear to be doing just fine one minute, grieving the next and go back to appearing fine a moment later. Even if they aren't showing it, a child who has had a family member die is grieving.

  • Teens and children want to feel just like the other kids, but they often feel alone in their grief. If they aren't receiving support, they may feel alone and isolated in their grief. Being a grieving child just makes them feel different from their peers.

Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, was also the Honorary Chairperson of the Highmark Caring Place from its beginning until his death in 2003. These words of his are on the walls of each of the Caring Place facilities:

"It is only natural that we and our children
find many things hard to talk about.

But anything human is mentionable and anything mentionable
can be manageable.

The mentioning can be difficult, and the managing too,
but both can be done if we're surrounded by love and trust."

Mister Rogers refers to the power of mentioning, of sharing with others. When we're able to share those thoughts and feelings and memories that can be difficult to share, we can begin to manage them as well.

And it's the support of others who care — especially the support of those who know what it's like to have lost a loved one — that can provide the atmosphere that allows this mentioning, and managing, to occur.

This kind of support can make a great difference in the lives of those who are grieving.