Bringing together a community of grief and bereavement specialists to connect, educate and empower.
The death of a loved one in childhood is one of the most common life adversities that an individual may experience, with an estimated 5.6 million children experiencing the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18. While most bereaved youth are resilient, research shows that, for some, bereavement can adversely affect long-term functioning in multiple life domains. For example, a nationally representative study of approximately 10,000 adolescents showed that the sudden death of a loved one was the strongest predictor of school problems above and beyond any other form of trauma, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, or witnessing domestic violence.
Given that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to grief support is typically ineffective, a critical task for professionals is to effectively decide which type of grief support (e.g., peer support and/or individual therapy) and practice elements are most appropriate based on the unique needs and strengths of the children they serve. This task has become even more important, albeit more challenging, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant environmental risk factors associated with the pandemic have infringed upon children’s adaptive grieving, including the inability to say goodbye to a dying loved one, imagining or hearing about the person’s suffering, and difficulties obtaining much needed social support due to social distancing. Using multidimensional grief theory as a foundation, this presentation will describe specific bereavement-related challenges that youth typically face after the death of a loved one and review evidence-based practice elements that can support grieving youth.
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