Dealing with Grief

Dealing with Grief

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.