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~ Myths About Children & Grief ~

There are many myths regarding grief. The focus on grief is often on the adults, however, children, even infants, can be affected by a death or a loss. The Hospice Foundation of America and the TLC Group have summarized several of the various myths surrounding children and grief. Myths regarding adults and grief can be found in the General Information section under Myths about Grief.

1. Children do not grieve.

Children of all ages grieve. The childís development and experiences affects the grieving process.
2. The death of a loved one is the only major loss children and adolescents experience.
Young people experience a variety of losses.  These include losses of pets, separations caused by divorce or relocations, losses of friends and relationships, as well as losses due to illness or death. All of these losses generate grief.
3. Children should be shielded from loss.
Itís impossible to protect children from loss.  Adults can teach ways of adapting to loss by including young people in the grieving process.
4. Children should not go to funerals.
Children should always attend funerals.
Allow young people to make their own choice. They should decide how they wish to participate in funerals or other services. Adults must provide information, options and support.
5. Children get over loss quickly.
No one gets over significant loss. Children, like adults, will learn to live with the loss. They may revisit that loss at different points in their lives and experience grief again.
6. Children are permanently scarred by loss.
Children are resilient. By providing solid support and strong consistent care, adults can help children cope with loss.
7. Talking with children and adolescents is the most effective approach in dealing with loss.
Different approaches are helpful to young people. Itís important to talk openly with children and adolescents; itís also helpful to let young people use creative approaches. Play, art, dance, music, and ritual are all valuable modes of expression that allow them to say what words cannot.
8. Helping children and adolescents deal with loss is the familyís responsibility.
Other individuals and organizations can share this responsibility. Hospices, schools, and faith communities can all offer necessary support.

More Myths of Children's Grief

Myth 1. Children Don't Grieve

Children grieve all losses in spurts, several times a day.
They re-grieve throughout all developmental stages.
Children don't know they're grieving or understand their feelings.
Myth 2. Children Experience Few Losses
Children experiences losses on a daily basis:
At School: Sports, grades, competitions, self esteem, relationships.
At Home: Control, understanding, dysfunctional family losses.
One of seven loses a parent to death before age 10.
Myth 3. Childhood is the Happiest Time of One's Life
A child will go through six developmental stages between birth and age 21.
Each stage is marked by a period of continuous change in cognition, feelings, and physical development.
Almost every area of life through each developmental stage is totally controlled by circumstances outside of the influence of the child.
TLC Group grants anyone the right to use this information without compensation so long as the copy is not used for profit or as training materials in a profit making activity such as workshops, lectures, and seminars, and so long as this paragraph is retained in its entirety.

Hospice Foundation of America. Eight Myths About Children and Loss. Available at: Site.
TLC Group. Three Myths of Children's Grief. Circa ? 1970's. Various Internet sources. (Unfortunately we have not been able to track down the original source.)

Children and adolescents are not immune to facing loss, death, dying and grief;
they encounter loss and experience a grief response.

Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS

See the Emergency 911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.

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Last update Sept. 11, 2002