While death is a normal part of life, many individuals experience numerous challenges following the death of a close loved one. Children and adults often feel alone, isolated, and unable to move forward in their lives. There is currently more documentation than ever about the myriad of problems emotionally, physically, economically, and socially that may result from the grieving process. Consistent with the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) on the impact of traumatic childhood experiences, the trauma of loss potentially carry long-range health implications for both children and adults.
How we wrestle with grief – and ultimately push ahead to a new life – varies among individuals. But, according to health experts, many children and adults who need professional support to move forward in their grief are not getting support, jeopardizing their mental and physical health. For some people, grief can become a problem in itself, ultimately prolonging suffering and impairing functioning – which is referred to as unresolved grief.
Unresolved grief causes individuals to (www.uofmhealth.org/health-library):
- Feel depressed, anxious, or overly worried/fearful
- Become overly concerned about their own health in general
- Isolate themselves from others and develop friendship/social challenges
- Become preoccupied/obsessed with the memory of the lost person, and may not be able to talk or think about anything else
- Become overly involved with work or a hobby or have difficulty completing school/work activities
- Drink more alcohol, smoke, or take drugs/more medication
- Increase their risk-taking behavior
- Develop behavior problems or express fears about being alone (especially children)
Without support for children, adults, and families, many grieving a death can experience these challenges. Therefore, the functionality and the communication of the family may start to fall apart. When parents/caregivers are struggling with their own grief and not getting the treatment they need, they are unable to support their children as they have in the past. But, when grief is fully processed in a supportive setting, the likelihood of damaging effects significantly decreases. Research shows that group support intervention or individual counseling for children and adults can lead to healthy grieving and avoid the costs of unresolved grief as children grow to adulthood.
When grieving children and families are given the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment, they can begin healing. Children can discuss their loss and challenges with peers in a safe and trusting environment. They can listen to one another’s experiences and have their feelings validated. Adults often find they are better equipped to handle life after loss and support their children more effectively after attending a support group. Participating in a bereavement support group at Full Circle enables individuals to decrease their feelings of isolation, express their feelings, learn healthy coping skills, and develop a valuable network of peer support. Full Circle guides mourners toward more constructive behaviors such as talking, journaling, creating art, and expressing emotion rather than holding it inside.