Children and Grief after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog by Janelle Breese Biagioni

March 28, 2011

Children and Grief

Children cannot be fooled. They know when something is wrong or when something “bad” has happened. As parents, we want to protect them and it is natural to want to keep them from experiencing pain and suffering. However, to avoid discussing with them how you feel or to not let them see you cry isn’t protecting them. Allowing them to see you cry because your heart is broken is not weak or shameful. Letting them know that they are safe in the midst of chaos and that you will all get through this together… is a gift.

grandpa and little girl

Children can grieve too.

When a parent sustains a brain injury, the roles within the family change. This is true for the children too. Often, they have to assume more responsibility in helping out with household tasks and/or caregiving. It isn’t that this is wrong ~ it is the reality that families living with a brain injury endure. With this shift in roles, it is normal to experience sadness, confusion, and frustration.

Children may not have the ability to express what they are experiencing; therefore, they will act out their grief. In addition to feeling sad and confused, children may also experience sleep and eating disruptions, and tears. Watch for signs of regression (e.g., a child who is potty-trained now has accidents); acting-out (e.g., outbursts) and eating/sleep disturbances. These are all “signs” that a child is struggling with inner turmoil.

Finding a counsellor with experience in grief and loss and working with children can be helpful. Visit your local Brain Injury Association for assistance in locating local resources.

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