What is Grief?
Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Our own experiences of grief vary and may be influenced by the nature of the loss.
Loss can include the death of a loved one, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft, or the loss of independence through disability.
Signs of Grief
Everyone has a different reaction to loss, but here are some common signs of grief:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Low self-esteem
- Self-destructive thoughts
- Being preoccupied or forgetful
If changes in mood and behavior begin to interfere with completion of daily activities, you should reach out to a health professional for support.
It is important to discuss the loss in age appropriate language. Depending on the age and developmental stage of the child, the death and loss can be difficult for a child to understand.
- A child may struggle to grasp the finality of death, and explanations may cause them to believe the person will only be gone temporarily, will come back from heaven, or that the person will return if they are good enough, or wish hard enough
- Immediately following a loss, children may feel immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member is still alive
- A child may temporarily become more infantile, need attention and cuddling, make unreasonable demands for food, talk baby talk, and even start wetting the bed at night
- A child might be angry, which may be revealed by boisterous play, nightmares, irritability, or a variety of other behaviors
If a child is having serious problems with grief and is exhibiting a significant behavior change for an extended period of time, you should reach out to a health professional for support.
Types of Support:
Professional/Clinical: Individual or group counseling is provided by a trained and licensed professional (counselor, therapist, social worker or psychologist). A trained professional may use a variety of therapeutic techniques during sessions to help you develop coping skills and process your grief.
Peer Support Groups: Peer led groups are typically led by an individual who has lost a loved one, usually several years ago, and is considered to have gone through the grieving process. Grief support groups may be organized based on the relative a person has lost (child, parent or spouse) so that all participants have a shared experience. Peer support groups can range in structure from developing new coping skills to open sharing of stories.
Faith Based Groups: These groups focus on the integration of faith, along with support and guidance, to move through the grief process. Sessions may include the exploration of how spirituality helps in the mourning process. It may be beneficial to work through your grief with people whose values or belief systems are similar to yours.
Grief/ Loss Resources
The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) compiled these resources to help individuals find support for grief and loss.
**Please note the inclusion of these resources is not necessarily an endorsement.**