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Death and Grieving

Loss is universal and resides at the core of grief; someone or something we love and value is gone, and we grieve (react to) the loss. From birth until death, as long as we continue to form attachments to and love other people— as long as we ascribe personal value to particular persons, pets, places, experiences, and objects—we assume the risk of the pain of grief when these cherished things are lost.

In addition to losing a loved one through death, children and adolescents potentially experience sundry perceived minor and major losses and associated grieving from a variety of causes, such as losing a favorite toy to the ravages of time; experiencing parental separation, divorce, or imprisonment; moving to a new residence; changing schools; having a friend move away; being bullied; being rejected by peers; breaking up with a romantic partner; or not being chosen for a team or other group.

Despite the fact that children and adolescents can grieve many types of losses, loss is most severe when it involves the death of a person who was an integral part of the survivor’s life .

The various terms used to describe youths’ reactions to loss are differentiated as follows. Grief is the normal, dynamic, unique, and multidimensional set of feelings, thoughts, and related reactions of an individual following a personally significant loss. Because grieving is a personally unique and highly variable dynamic process, grief responses among children and adolescents vary. Factors affecting grief responses include manner of death, nature and significance of the relationship to the deceased, age and related developmental tasks, gender, physical and mental status, social–emotional development and personality, prior loss experiences, death-specific religious beliefs, adequacy of personal coping resources, and availability of helpful social support.

Mourning, which has both personal and interpersonal components and is embedded in an individual’s religious and cultural tradition, is the way the bereaved individual personally manages and overtly expresses grief after the death of a loved one. Mourning includes formalized rituals such as memorial services, funerals, wakes, specific modes of dress, or other comforting behavior.

Bereavement refers to an individual’s complete reaction to the loss and encompasses both the unique grief experience and its expression through the work of mourning. "

by Gary W. Mauk, Scotland County Schools, Laurinburg, NC; and Jim D. Sharpnack
The Guidance Center, Leavenworth, KS DEATH AND GRIEVING WEB RESOURCES:

American Hospice Foundation

American Psychological Association

Compassionate Friends

Good Grief Program: Boston Medical Center


National Association of School Psychologists

National Hopeline Network

Child Grief Education Association