Flip the Script for Children’s Grief Awareness Month
Written by Amy Entwistle, Four Seasons Adult, Child, & Adolescent Grief Coordinator
November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month!
In recognition of Children’s Grief Awareness Month, this year, Compass, Four Seasons Child & Adolescent Grief Services, has partnered with the National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG) to “flip the script” on grief. Throughout the month, we are committed to providing essential tools and resources to foster a more grief-informed society. This initiative, created by NACG with support from national childhood grief organizations, Eluna, Experience Camps, Dougy Center, and Judi’s House, seeks to address the common challenges people face when supporting those who are grieving, aiming to replace potentially hurtful statements or silence with comforting and constructive responses.
Have you ever talked to a grieving person and felt like you said the wrong thing? This November, we are committed to #FliptheScript on the things we say, finding phrases that are more supportive when talking to someone who is grieving.
In this season, instead of “The holidays must be so hard for you,” try ➡️ “I’m so happy to see you. I know sometimes the holidays can be hard after someone dies.” In general, it’s not helpful to assume how people are feeling. Respecting the individual means asking them how they feel.
Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model: Key Findings & Messages 2023
Children’s Grief Awareness Month serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of acknowledging and supporting children who are grieving and their families. The Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM) is a first-of-its-kind tool that uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to estimate the number of bereaved children. According to the 2023 CBEM, an alarming statistic underscores the urgency of the effort of Children’s Grief Awareness Month: 1 in 12 children, or approximately 6 million children, in the United States, will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18. The profound impact of this loss cannot be understated.
Long-overlooked, childhood bereavement continues to grow in importance as a national priority. Understanding the magnitude of childhood bereavement is key to driving necessary action that ensures adequate resources are available to those needing care. In North Carolina, 1 in 11 children, or 9.2%, approximately 211,000 children, will be bereaved by age 18. This is higher than the national rate of 8.3%. This number more than doubles to 505,000 youth will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 25, emphasizing the need for greater awareness and support for those navigating the complexities of childhood grief.
Many of the things we say when trying to comfort someone who is grieving can be well-intentioned but also distancing. This November, we are committed to flipping the typical grief scripts and, together, finding phrases to use when supporting someone who is grieving.
Instead of “I’m sorry for your loss,” try ➡️ “I know there are no words to make it better. Just know that I’m here and want to support you however I can.” This phrase can make the bereaved person feel isolated at a moment when they need connection. Try putting the focus on the griever’s experience to ensure your support is more meaningful and resonant.
Children’s Grief Awareness Day is Thursday, November 16, 2023
Created in 2008 by the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents, and their Families, and since recognized by organizations around the world, Children’s Grief Awareness Day is observed every year on the third Thursday in November. This time of year is a particularly appropriate time to support grieving children because the holiday season is often an especially difficult time after a death.
Children’s Grief Awareness Day seeks to bring attention to the fact that often support can make all the difference in the life of a grieving child. It provides an opportunity for all of us to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one has on the life of a child, an opportunity to make sure that children receive the support they need.
Throughout November, Four Seasons Compass, alongside NACG, is sharing quick and easy statements that can be invaluable to someone grieving. These statements aim to provide comfort, empathy, and support to individuals dealing with the profound loss of a loved one. By fostering a more grief-informed society we can collectively help alleviate the pain and isolation that children who are grieving often experience.
Have you ever felt awkward or uncomfortable talking to a friend who is grieving and wished you could find the right words? This November, we are committed to #FliptheScript on the things we say, finding phrases that are more supportive when talking to someone who is grieving.
Instead of “I completely get what you’re going through,” try ➡️ “Grief is different for everyone. What has it been like for you?”.
Offering someone your own experience and saying, “I know how you feel,” may seem comforting, but claiming to know before gaining a true understanding of the person’s unique perspective minimizes their experience. Always check in and ask yourself, “Am I focusing on the person’s experience or my own grief?”
Grieving Hurts, Compass Can Help!
Childhood grief profoundly impacts bereaved youth, families, and communities. The death of an important person in a child’s life is one of the most frequently reported adverse childhood experiences. Unaddressed childhood grief and trauma can lead to short- and long-term difficulties including poor academic performance, mental health issues, and early mortality.
Compass is Four Seasons’ child and adolescent grief program and offers help to grieving children and adolescents who have experienced a recent loss or anticipating the death of a loved one. Compass provides education about children’s grief processes and experiences through consultation, resources, presentations, and training while offering individual and group counseling sessions. Through the Compass program, children learn about grief and develop strategies to help them work through the grief process. Compass grief coordinators also work with parents / legal guardians and other caring adults to help them build confidence in supporting the grieving children in their lives.
Compass services are offered to all grieving children and adolescents in the counties that Four Seasons serves at no cost to the families and are funded by generous community donations through the Four Seasons Foundation. Contact Compass at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.692.6178 and ask to speak with a Compass coordinator.
Have you ever wished you could overcome the discomfort of talking to someone about their grief and find the words to provide support? This November, we are committed to #FliptheScript on the things we say, finding phrases that are more supportive when talking to someone who is grieving.
Instead of “You need to be strong,” try ➡️ “You might feel like you need to be strong, but you don’t have to be with me.” Telling someone to “be strong” when they are hurting may leave them feeling like they are weak when they are vulnerable and experiencing normal emotions after the death of their person.