• Signs and Symptoms of Grief

    Below is a list of signs and symptoms of grief in adolescents to help you identify students that may need additional resources and assistance.
    Adolescents and Grieving

    The adolescent searches for the meaning of life, which includes death. "Why" questions will be asked, many of which have no concrete answers. Often, adolescents' emotional response to death will be very intense and issues of unresolved grief of divorce of parents, etc., will emerge.

    Expressions of Grief

    Talking to children about death must be geared to their developmental level, respectful of their cultural norms, and sensitive to their capacity to understand the situation. Children will be aware of the reactions of significant adults as they interpret and react to information about death and tragedy. In fact, for primary grade children adult reactions will play an especially important role in shaping their perceptions of the situation. The range of reactions that children display in response to the death of significant others may include:

    • Emotional shock and at times an apparent lack of feelings, which serve to help the child detach from the pain of the moment;
    • Regressive (immature) behaviors, such as needing to be rocked or held, difficulty separating from parents or significant others, needing to sleep in parent’s bed or an apparent difficulty completing tasks well within the child’s ability level;
    • Explosive emotions and acting out behavior that reflect the child’s internal feelings of anger, terror, frustration and helplessness. Acting out may reflect insecurity and a way to seek control over a situation for which they have little or no control;
    • Asking the same questions over and over, not because they do not understand the facts, but rather because the information is so hard to believe or accept. Repeated questions can help listeners determine if the child is responding to misinformation or the real trauma of the event.

    A Student May React To A Loss By Exhibiting...

    1. A decline in school performance
    2. Difficulty in mastering new material
    3. Irritable, withdrawn, anxious or depressed behavior.
    4. A likelihood in risk-taking behaviors from drug abuse, to attempts at suicide.

    What You Can Do As A Teacher

    1. Routine Is Important! During this time of crisis and uncertainty, students often find a sense of comfort in a familiar classroom with a familiar routine.
    2. Get as much detailed information as possible concerning whom you should contact for questions and concerns, the child’s living arrangements, etc.
    3. Stay in regular contact with the student suffering from the loss. Be on the alert for personality or behavioral changes. Know the support system that is available in the school. BE A GOOD LISTENER!
    4. Provide different avenues in getting required work from the student. If there is no support at home, you might have to resort to providing an extra study hall, etc. These decisions should be made with the knowledge and support of the school counselor.