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Loss is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as “the fact or process of losing something or someone.” Loss is a universal experience and an unavoidable part of being human. When a child experiences loss, it is emoted through grief, which is defined as deep sorrow. The more significant the loss, the more intensely grief is experienced. The American Counseling Association further explains that “grief is an inevitable, never-ending process that results from a permanent or temporary disruption in a routine, a separation, or a change in a relationship that may be beyond the person’s control.” Grief has a physiological effect on children. It affects the human limbic system by disrupting certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with one’s reward center and feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is known as one of the chemicals responsible for maintaining one’s mood balance. Young people who have experienced loss often present with a range of feelings. Grief will manifest in each child differently, as there is no single way to grieve. Although natural, grief and loss can be particularly difficult for kids to process and understand. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to help children navigate life’s challenges related to experiences of loss and associated grief, some of which include the following:

  • Uphold rules and routines: Maintaining routines and schedules can provide a sense of stability and security for children during a difficult time.
  • Reinforce the notion that it is possible to hold many feelings at once: It is important for a child to allow themselves the space to move through all their feelings and understand that it highly common to be sad and feel a sense of loss while simultaneously experiencing joy and happiness.
  • Gently encourage the practice of healthy daily habits: This can be accomplished through leading by example and modeling engaging in regular physical activity, obtaining ample sleep, eating nutritiously, etc. 
  • Facilitate open communication: Remain open and available to listen to your child and provide them comfort when needed.
  • Connect your child with support groups: Participating in support groups can help children feel a sense of community and let them know they are not alone.
  • Humor can be healing: Empirical evidence shows that laughter can boost one’s immune system, ease pain, enhance relaxation, reduce depression, and alleviate stress.

It is not uncommon for the effects of loss and grief-filled feelings to shift and change as time passes. A qualified mental health professional can provide your child with customized care and offer guidance and pointed strategies to help you provide your child with the most useful support.

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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