Grief and Loss is something that hits everyone in different ways at different times. We wanted to put out some information, a resource and a Podcast to help you in grief discussions with your students either now or later as grief and loss arrises. We have consulted Dr. Buddy Medez, Dr. Jenna Flowers, Brittany Herman M.F. Child Psychology and Jack West, Care and Recovery Pastor at Mariners, to get the best information and best practices to pass off to our parents. If you have any questions on this content or would like to talk to someone in more detail about what you or your students may be dealing with please feel free to reach out to our Junior High Pastor Justin Herman, Jherman@marinerschurch.org or Alex Beaverson in our High School Ministry at Abeaverson@marinerschurch.org.
Here is a resource that will help you in talking with a student during a Tragedy, Click to download
Here is a Podcast on our Tardycast with Dr. Buddy Mendez on Conversations on Grief and Loss, GET THAT PODCAST HERE
How School Age Children Grieve by Jenna Flowers PsyD, MFT
School age children (ages 6-12) are developmentally ready to understand the permanence of death. When children grieve at this age stage there may be signs of tearfulness, sadness, difficulty concentrating at school, loss or increase in appetite, worry, frequent physical complaints like a headache or upset stomach, whiney or combative behaviors with family members.
Parents and primary caregivers need to be reassuring and supportive during this time. Extra downtime can be helpful because keeping busy can often stop the grieving process.
Be available to talk but often having quieter time together will allow for more open conversation such as bed time or walking the dogs. Be sure to not impose your own need to talk on your child. Letting your tween know you are available to talk is important, but follow their lead in how much they want to discuss.
Junior high students are often at an age where they are starting to turn towards their friends to help grieve. They need their parents in their grieving process but they also needs their friendships to a certain extent as well. Corporate grieving is grieving in a community of friends. This often helps tweens make better sense of what has happened and if you can invite other families into the conversation it helps to normalize the feelings your child is having.
Creating a ritual to help the tween say goodbye can be a helpful way to process the grief and memorialize the person lost. Whether it be writing a card, sharing a memory, releasing a balloon in honor of the friend, the main thing is to use ritual as a way to saying goodbye well.
Look for a way to pay it forward. When you lose someone that is important to you, many people feel at a loss of how to approach the family during the grieving period. Consider donating your time or making a contribution to an organization that would honor the memory of the individual and discuss the meaning of what you are doing as a family. Actions like these help build empathy and create a productive task to process grief as a family.
For children who hear about the death of a fellow student but did not have a closer relationship, parents are wise to open the conversation up by asking how their child feels about what happened and if they have any questions. Death is a very real subject and one that most parents would like to have when their kids are older. Yet, grieving is a life long lesson and when a child has a skill set to process loss, a new skill set of resilience is strengthened.
Here are a few Bullet Points to help you parents:
1. Don’t underestimate your son/daughter’s ability to handle the facts and the full reality of a friends or family members passing. Honor the gravity of the news but tell it to them straight. Avoid “softening” the news with platitudes (i.e. God works all for the good of those who love him…Jesus needed another angel etc. Those things serve the news deliver more than the news receiver).
2. Offer yourself as a person to process what they just heard. Process means mostly listen to how they feel and what they think about the news . Offer means just that – it’s an open handed invitation to have a conversation.
3. Allow your son/daughter to choose how they want to process the information. Most kids will opt to have some conversation with their parents but reserve the deeper more extensive dialogue for their friends. Some may even bypass or avoid an initial processing with their parents. Respect their choice even if they seem to struggle initially with the news.
It’s important, in my mind, to walk the line between engagement and allowing the student to process on their time and in the space they choose. Therefore, the principle is to set the table with honesty and clarity with an invitation to more conversation – at that time or later.
You’re Parent Partner,
Justin Herman, Junior High Pastor
EPISODE 4- Conversations on Grief and Loss with Buddy Mendez and Justin Herman
This week we are talking to Dr. Buddy Mendez on the subject of Grief and Loss. Buddy is a parent, an expert in this field, and his family calls Mariners Church their home. He has counseled many and, as a professor, teaches the next generation on topics like this.
He gives us practical ideas and tips on how to talk with your student on the subject of Grief and Loss. This is practical for any parent or volunteer who has students dealing with the loss of a friend or family member.
Its a 30 minute discussion and will be well worth your time as a parent or volunteer.
If you have any question on this for you or your family please reach out to us in student ministry, Email Justin at Jherman@marinerschurch.org for Junior High or Email Alex at Abeaverson@marinerschurch.org for High School.