We all face change and loss at different times in our lives. Whatever the situation, everyone’s experience of change and loss is a personal journey that is unique to them.
In situations where someone you know is experiencing grief and loss, you can often feel out of your depth or unsure about what to say or what to do to support them. One thing that is helpful to know is that grief is a process and it can affect us in various ways. Grief is the normal response to loss and it can affect not only our emotions, but also our body and our thinking. For instance, we may experience a range of emotions like anger, anxiety, emptiness or guilt. We might lose our appetite, find it hard to breathe, struggle to sleep or lack energy to perform basic tasks. We may also notice things like the inability to concentrate, confusion, disbelief or a searching for answers to questions that confront us.
Another helpful thing to know is that grief (according to Worden’s theory of grief) generally has four tasks to work through: acceptance of the reality of the loss; working through the pain of the loss; adjusting to our world that has been changed by the loss, and finding an enduring connection with that which was lost while continuing on in life. These tasks can be experienced for various lengths of time but in no particular order. So we cannot put time limits on them or expect to predict what the grief journey should look like.
Having thought about what grief can involve, you can then consider some practical ways in which you might support someone during such difficult times. You may be able to provide a listening ear for them to be able to talk without feeling judged. You can encourage them to find space for experiencing the various emotions (both difficult and pleasant). You might be able to offer practical help such as meals, transport, cleaning or child minding. Then, even well after the loss occurred you can show ongoing care by asking them how they are going. In each situation, depending on your relationship with the person, your involvement with them will vary. If you are concerned that something more needs to be provided, you can direct them to services such as their local GP or the Grief Line (03) 9935 7400.
Here at Charlton Christian College we recognise that when changes occur in families through death, separation, divorce or other significant circumstances, young people may benefit from learning how to manage these changes effectively. We therefore offer a very successful educational program for students called Seasons for Growth. This is a small group program based on research that highlights the importance of social support and the need to practise new skills to cope effectively with change and loss. The program runs over 8 weekly sessions and focuses on issues such as self-esteem, managing feelings, problem-solving, decision-making, effective communication and support networks. If you think your child might benefit from Seasons for Growth you can express your interest with Charlton’s School Counsellor
Mrs Yvonne Crawford / Counsellor