The Time Is Now to Invest in Grieving Young People
Recently, NPR covered a fascinating club for teenage students experiencing the death of a parent. The article follows the story of a high school sophomore named Elizabeth, whose father passed from COVID-19 last year. More than anything, this reporting shows that the time is now to invest in community-centered programs for grieving young people and that our approaches should include all children experiencing grief.
Rhitu Chaterjee writes, “His death turned Elizabeth’s world upside down. In the weeks that followed, she found herself not wanting to leave her house. ‘I didn’t want to go to school,’ she says. ‘I just wanted to stay at home.”
It’s important to point out that children, unlike adults, have to continue to go to school. There is no pause or time off for them. Sometimes, these children simply fall behind in school and in life because they are often facing compounding instability at home. Some lose their housing, experience food insecurity, loss of health care coverage among other hardships. Children who seek post-secondary education opportunities face enormous academic stressors — like how grades will impact their path to college or how they will pay for it. We believe no child should face these hardships.
Chaterjee continues: “Losing a parent in childhood is the kind of trauma that can change the trajectory of kids’ lives, putting them at risk of having symptoms of anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress and even poor educational outcomes.”
To be frank, this is an understatement and scratches the surface at the impact of childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement experts have found that when compared to non-bereaved children, bereaved children are at risk of “lower self-esteem, reduced resilience, lower grades and more school failures, heightened risk of depression, suicide attempts, suicide [completions], and premature death due to any cause as a result of their loss, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, youth delinquency, and a greater number of, and more severe, psychiatric difficulties.”
Please check out the full article and let us know what you think. We have a long way to go to address the needs of bereaved children, but it’s encouraging to know that we are not alone in this fight!