Helping Children Cope with Grief

It's not a cheerful subject, but children who experience grief need help dealing with their thoughts and feelings. It's hard enough for adults to lose a loved one, but children have fewer coping skills.

That's why organizations like Bo's Place exist. Bo's Place is Houston's only ongoing, free grief support program for children. Patricia Lind is the executive director.

"I think in my grandmother's days they probably would have in general 'pull up your socks and get on with it'. But research has shown that children who don't process the grief in their lives, stuff it down deep and it comes out sideways later, such as alcohol abuse or drug abuse, depression."

Not only do children cope differently, but they also have a strong need for normalcy. Lind says these kids need to know that other children have gone through similar experiences.

"Grieving children help other grieving children. On a given night all the children there have lost a sibling, so your pain would be the same, you would understand each other. While at school you might be that odd person out, at Bo's Place that night you're just normal. On another night every child has lost their parents so we would understand one another's grief that way too. So it's just a wonderful experience for children to help other children."

More than 400 children and families are counseled on a monthly basis at Bo's Place. Lind says as Houston grows, so does the need for more grief support services.

"The very young children, our three- and four-year-olds, they really don't even understand the bigger concept of death -- the permanency of it. Then of course the other children, as they grow older, get that concept but it's abandonment issues and loneliness. We have a trauma program also, for those families who have experienced a very sudden death -- murder, suicide, sudden car accident or illness. And that's a time-limited program where they process those real strong feelings of shock and surprise before they can even get to the point of processing grief issues."

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
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