Children Are the 'Forgotten Grievers'

Grief

The standard of care for decades for children who had suffered a loss did not help. Thinking it was best, adults urged children to move past their loss as quickly as possible. Mourning was broken.

“Children have always been the forgotten grievers,” said Andy McNiel, executive director of the National Alliance for Grieving Children. “The idea was that they would forget about it. That it was too much for them to handle, that they would be better off if we pretended it didn’t happen. None of that was true. They may stop talking about it, but they are always thinking about it.”

This, McNiel said, could make children withdraw or become angry. They might work through their feelings in unhealthy ways. Then, as adults, they might not trust people. They could become stuck in their grief.

“You hear about it all the time from adults who lost their parents when they were kids,” McNiel said. “It impacted my marriage, it impacted how I raised my kids, it impacted my work. It doesn’t stop.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Faherty looked at grief counselors at an all-boys school who work with teens who have lost loved ones. The counseling has helped the boys process their feelings. Read more stories about processing grief at Longreads.

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Photo: Eric Chan

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Mike is the managing editor at Longreads, on the editorial team at WordPress.com, and is the editor of The Billfold. He has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, Pacific Standard, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.
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