Caregiving

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    Spending time with other children who have also experienced grief can be a very positive experience for some children, as many grieving children feel isolated in their experience of grief. There are a number of weekend and overnight camps for grieving children, as well as in-person support groups, email support groups, and online forums where children and teens can talk to each other about their experiences. Giving children and teens an opportunity to understand that they are not alone in their grief can help them process their feelings.
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    Feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, guilt, fear and frustration (among many others) are all natural emotional responses to a death. When dealing with a child who is grieving for a loved one, by acknowledging how the child is feeling, you can let the child know that it is okay to feel these ways. Creating a space where the child feels comfortable expressing his or her feelings and grief can help the child feel "normal" and supported.
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    There are several things you can do to help a grieving child. Spend time and speak honestly with the child, and acknowledge the child's grief or anxiety. It is important for a child who has lost a loved one to know that he or she is not alone. If the child needs space, he or she should be granted that space. But it's equally important for the child to know that he or she has adults who are available, present and ready to listen, talk or just hang out. Physical affection, such as hugging, can make a child feel cared for and safe.
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    Children who are grieving may act out with anger, tantrums, play-acting like a baby, or reluctance to participate in activities (such as social activities or school). A child may appear to be fine and then may have an outburst of emotion. Or a child may lash out with anger at close friends or family members.

    For some children, the experience of grief is much more internal, and a child may act as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened, sometimes to an extreme degree. Even for emotional children, there may be moments when the child seems unfeeling about the loss and may vocally judge others for feeling emotional.

    Children may also obsess over the details of the death, the funeral and the person who died. They may repeatedly tell the story of how the person died or what happened at the funeral. They may have an instinct to impersonate the person who died, or to talk about the person constantly.
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    A child's experience of grief may be very different than an adult's. For children, the concept of death may be unclear, and the feelings of grief will likely be new and foreign. A child may assume that the person who died is only gone temporarily and will return, which can lead to feelings of confusion, disappointment, frustration and sadness. For some children, the death of a loved one may be accompanied by feelings of guilt and self-blame, and the child may think that his or her thoughts, words or actions have caused the death. This line of thinking can lead to feelings of anger, loneliness, disorientation and sadness. For many children, feelings of grief can cause nightmares, unpleasant thoughts or anxiety.
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    When feeling overwhelmed with grief following someone's death, it is common for personal care and hygiene to be put off or de-prioritized. Remember that taking care of yourself physically is an important way to take care of yourself emotionally. Try to eat healthy food, exercise, spend time outside and get a healthy amount of sleep. If you’re having trouble taking care of your health, consider reaching out to a friend to ask for support. Many people would be happy to cook dinner for you or with you, help with grocery shopping, attend an exercise class with you or take a walk.
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    If you are struggling to cope with a death, consider talking to a therapist. A therapist or counselor who specializes in grief can help you sort through your emotions. To find a therapist or counselor in your area, contact your local hospital for references. If you live near a university, contact the school. Many university psychology departments have therapists-in-training who can work with you, often at a reduced rate.
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    If you are having difficulty coping with someone's death and are a religious person, consider talking to your religious leader. He or she can provide a place to discuss your feelings, listen to your experience and help you according to your beliefs. The mourning traditions of your religion might offer a framework that can help you better understand the grieving process and make sense of your experience. Going to church or synagogue, praying and reading the Bible can also be sources of comfort.
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    Friends can be helpful when you're coping with a death. Whether you stay in or go out with them, connecting with friends can remind you that even if you feel alone, you’re not alone. It also reminds you that even though you’ve experienced a loss, you can still enjoy yourself.

    Sometimes, friends don’t know how to respond to grief. If your friends aren’t reaching out to you, try reaching out to them. It’s likely that they want to support you but simply don’t know how.
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    Treating a terminal disease itself may not be possible or may be at odds with hospice care. Therefore, treating the symptoms themselves is important for improved comfort and quality of life. These symptoms may include:
    • Pain
    • Air hunger (breathing problems)
    • Incontinence
    • Nausea
    • Constipation
    • Insomnia
    • Anxiety
    • Weakness
    • Depression
    • Loss of Appetite
    • Swelling
    • Rashes