Kids & Grief & COVID-19
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Over the past couple of weeks, as I've remained dedicated to isolation in my home in Atlanta, like many, I have pondered how else I can best support those most vulnerable during this pandemic crisis. Then it began to reveal itself as my friends began to send me articles like this one:
Published in the Harvard Business Review, it is a fantastic article and I highly recommend it for everyone. I was uniquely happy to see such a headline call it out so clearly, "The Discomfort You Feel is Grief." There it was, the word Grief, big and bold. As it should be.
But then I started to get sent this one.
Another important and informative article about the impact this crisis will have on our kids. I do highly recommend this read as well. It frames a perfect conundrum of physical health and mental health as we seek to understand the impact of COVID-19 on children. Unfortunately, nowhere in the article does it call out that kids too are experiencing what adults are experiencing: grief.
As we adults finally decide to get our sh** together around our grief, we too often leave behind the kids. We think, "they're so young, there is no way they have the emotional capacity to process this crisis, so let's just keep them distracted" or "they're resilient, they'll bounce right back." No thinking could be more dangerous as we begin this long journey of struggle, change, and reconciliation that lies ahead. We can't afford to take the same approach to childhood grief that most of us adults learned, one of avoidance. If we want our children to properly move through and eventually heal from the impact of COVID-19, then we need to understand that the discomfort they are feeling is grief too! Their grief may not be directly related to death or their mortality, but there is still loss all around them. As the incredible writer of The Atlantic article states, "This is likely a once-in-a-generation disaster, and it will affect every domain of human life. It will be traumatic. And trauma always falls hardest on the youngest among us."
Last January, I did a TEDx Talk in Big Sky, Montana. I'm sharing it again in hopes it helps parents and teachers, and all the caregivers of our youth to begin to understand that children are grieving and that they do need support. I encourage you to watch with an expanded perspective of grief. One that is not just death-related grief but inclusive of any profound loss, be it connection, routine, security, and yes, in hundreds of thousands of cases, the death of a loved one. I also encourage anyone who is experiencing triggers to unresolved grief due to isolation or other life changes, watching as well. We've got work to do to reframe grief for children, and it begins with acknowledging it from their lens. It's a long road ahead for all of us, so let us pledge to start now.
And as always, the most important thing to remember is that none of us are alone, no matter our age, our zip code, or our struggle.
Healing Hugs - From a Distance, Kate
If you are looking for great ways to structure learning and growth around grief for your children, here is a great tip sheet for you from The Dougy Center.
If you are looking for a little insight into the biggest questions our kids are asking about the Coronavirus, check out this podcast from The Daily.