There are several ways parents and other adults can help children get through painful times such as the recent deaths of two Oakton High School students as a result of a car accident the first day back to school. In addition, there are resources available such as books and community programs. The following information was provided by Annemarie Bezold, a licensed clinical social worker with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.
* OFFER THEM reassurance and support; let them know you will be there for them; and that they will not have to go through this alone.
* Cultivate an environment of openness to the expression of all feelings; help them to know that feelings aren't right or wrong; and let them know there are healthy ways to express painful feelings.
* Provide structure and continuity in their daily routine; set appropriate limits and boundaries while being patient and understanding.
* Listen to their fears and concerns in a nonjudgmental way; avoid meaningless platitudes, advice giving and lecturing; and understand their painful feelings without having to "fix" them.
* Allow them to tell and retell their experiences; reassure them you don't mind hearing it over and over. This is how they process the experience and are able to move on.
* Encourage different techniques to help them creatively process their experience such as drawing a picture, writing their story, writing a poem or a play, and creating a collage.
* Work to improve their self-esteem; identify their good qualities, talents and strengths; and point out their insights and areas of competence.
* Help them begin to develop a hopeful image of themselves; remind them of the progress they have made so far; help them visualize themselves moving on to a more normal life in the future.
IN ADDITION, there are several books aimed at helping adolescents deal with grief, including, "Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers," by Erol Grollman; "The Grieving Teen," by Helen Fitzgerald; "When Death Walks In," by Mark Scrivani; and "Reactions: A Trauma Workbook," by Alison Salloun. Books geared for adults include "Don't Take My Grief Away from Me," by Doug Manning; "The Mourning Handbook," by Helen Fitzgerald; "Grief: What Is It/What You Can Do," by Marvin and Joy Johnson; "How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies," by Rando; "More Than Surviving," by Kelly Osmont; and "The Gift of Significance," by Doug Manning. Books providing advice on helping others grieve include "Don't Ask for the Dead Man's Golf Clubs," by Lynn Kelly; "Stepping through the Awkwardness," by Marilyn Gryte; "My Friend, I Care," by Barbara Karnes; and "What Helps the Most When You Lose Someone Close," Linus Mundy, ed.
FOR THOSE WHO feel they need professional help, there are several community programs.
* Grief Program, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board offers grief support groups for preschool and elementary-school-age children, suicide survivors, parents grieving an infant death and children, adolescents and adults who lost loved ones on 9/11. Coordinator: Annemarie Bezold, 703-866-2119.
* Haven of Northern Virginia: offers a variety of groups for adults dealing with dying and/or a death in the family, as well as individual support in person or on the phone, 703-941-7000.
* Hospice of Northern Virginia: provides many bereavement support groups throughout the Washington, D.C., area, 703-538-2064.
* Victim Services: Fairfax County provides a support group for those whose loved ones were murdered, 703-246-2142.
* Compassionate Friends provides support groups for parents whose children have died, 703-536-2672.
* Young Widows/Widowers Support Group: meets second and fourth Monday evenings from September through May, 703-641-0100.
* Life with Cancer offers individual help and a variety of groups for those with cancer, their loved ones and caregivers, 703-698-2841.
* Latino Alliance for Bereavement Counseling offers individual and group support in Spanish. Located in Falls Church, 703-820-1026.