When is it time for professional help?: Helping a grieving child

When is it time for professional help?: Helping a grieving child
August 23, 2021 No Comments Mental health emmahjoy

Helping hand

In my previous article, I have written about how anyone can help a grieving child. However, sometimes the grief can extend to a point that requires a counselors’ help. The question, therefore, is how do you know it is time to seek professional help? According to William Worden (2013), When a child starts displaying the following traits, it is time to seek help from a grief counselor.

Persistent self-blame. At the bargaining stage of grief, the child might put blame on themselves for having let down the deceased in one way or the other. It is important for the caregiver to show a lot of support during this time and help them not to put blame on themselves.

Insomnia. This is when the child has sleep problems. They have short periods of sleep and it is most often attributed to depression. The Christi center in their study of children and grief found out that 99% of the children in grief agreed to have experienced sleep problems.

Eating problems. The child might have problems eating. Some of them lose appetite and can barely eat even their favorite meals.

Aggression and irritability in their behavior. Since most of the children have a difficulty in expressing their emotions, the energy is channeled to how they behave. Therefore the trust issues, anger, and need for alone time are expressed by signs of irritability.

Difficulties in school. The child either portrays reluctance in going to school. Some of the bright kids who used to perform very well start to underperform.

When they avoid talking about the deceased. It could either mean they are repressing their emotions or avoiding the challenge of dealing with the situation entirely. The child might also be dealing with the difficulty of expressing their emotions.

When they have suicidal thoughts. During the grief process, when they hit the stage of depression, there is a high likelihood of suicidal ideations mostly from older children like adolescents. Talking to them helps to keep tabs and know what they are thinking and how the caregiver can navigate and help them.

Evident regression. The child goes back to former developmental stages that they had already outgrown. For example, those who had stopped bedwetting might start bedwetting again, a child who had already learned to walk can go back to crawling.

Nightmares. The child experiences disturbed sleep. They often scream at night or refuse to sleep on their own bed for fear of bad things happening to them. This is where the younger child tends to join their caregiver’s bed.

They are withdrawn or detached from other people. The child is struggling with the idea that they have been betrayed by the deceased and therefore have lost trust in other people. In some cases, the child might be trying to understand what death is and it is advisable to explain to them in simple terms that they can understand.


These symptoms of grief are clearly evident that it does not require a lot of knowledge or clinical help to know that there is something wrong with the child. Therefore, as a caregiver, you can seek professional counseling services for the child and also engage them in activities that help them cope with the loss.

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