Knowing when a child needs more help than you are able to provide can be difficult. Most often, much of what you will experience or will see in your child is to be expected during this time. How long symptoms persist and their intensity are major factors in the difference between a normal reaction to a death and one that may benefit from professional intervention.
The following behaviors, if seen in excess in younger children, may be red flags to warrant speaking to a professional:
* Excessive clinginess
* Oppositional behaviors
* Lowered sense of self-esteem
* Difficulties at school
* Agoraphobia (fear of the outside world or open spaces)
* Lack of memory retention
* Panic attacks
* Fear of abandonment (separation anxiety)
* Intense guilt over the death
* Physical symptoms such as weight loss or weight gain
* Sleeping too much or too little
* Excessive crying
When in doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution. Let someone who is an expert in the field talk with you and your children, and if needed, create a plan of action. Do not hesitate to use your resources — they exist to be used. Another excellent resource (often overlooked) is your pediatrician. He or she can refer you to helpful resources in your area. You will also find many helpful resources in the “Places to Turn for Help” section at the end of this book.
There are many different types of grief support groups. Here are some tips on how to find support near you:***
* Hospice care includes bereavement support as part of the total family support, both before and after your death. If you are receiving hospice care, the Bereavement Coordinator for the hospice service you are using can inform your family about support options. Even if you are not receiving hospice services, many hospices offer groups for the public in addition to their clients.
* Use the Yellow Pages and call hospitals and hospices near you. Ask to speak with the Bereavement Coordinator, Social Worker, or Chaplain’s Office to get a local grief referral.
* Call your telephone operator and ask for the numbers for your local mental health association and your local suicide prevention center. Both agencies have good grief referral lists. You do not need to be suicidal to get a grief referral from a suicide prevention center.
* If you are mourning the death of a child, check the national office of The Compassionate Friends (www.compassionatefriends.org) to see if there is a group near you.
***Adapted with permission from “How To Find A Grief Group”, Growth House, Inc., http://www.growthhouse.org (accessed October 15, 2010).