Bereaved Children and Adolescents:
Assessment and Diagnosis
MANY people assume that children are not capable of experiencing true grief; as a result, their reactions to death are not often fully explored and evaluated. Children most definitely do grieve, but their ways of expressing it are different from those of adults ( Cook and Oltjenbruns, 1989; Salladay and Royal, 1981). They feel the same range of emotions as adults, but these feelings may not be obvious to the observer. Although children's experience of bereavement is painful and ongoing, their sadness does not seem to be as all-consuming as it is for adults. They can be laughing and playing normally one minute, and crying and needing comfort the next. Adults often misinterpret this shifting in attention and the accompanying emotions as an incapacity to feel the loss deeply. Accounts of adults who have suffered bereavement during childhood discount this interpretation. These individuals often have vivid images and strong memories of how they felt and how others responded to them during this time.
The features of childhood bereavement can be strikingly diverse. Regressive behaviors such as thumb-sucking and bed-wetting are common among younger children. Associated with this may be anxiety and fear about separation from other loved ones, resulting in clinging and dependency behaviors. Anger may be expressed through temper tantrums, aggressive behavior, discipline problems, deviance, or negativism
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Publication information: Book title: Helping the Bereaved:Therapeutic Interventions for Children, Adolescents, and Adults. Contributors: Alicia Skinner Cook - Author, Daniel S. Dworkin - Author. Publisher: Basic Books. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 59.
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