Building Bridges

Dealing with Loss
PART II (continued)

Deciding whether to get additional help

26. Even if the children appear to be functioning well, consider meeting with a professional who is experienced in helping children deal with loss.
Whether or not the children seem to be doing the normal work of mourning, and seem to be doing about as well as they had been previously in school and in their other regular activities, outside help may be of value. You, as a parent, may be reassured by talking with a mental health professional who has visited with the children. Beyond that, you are likely to find it helpful to be able to ask your own questions and discuss your particular concerns about helping the children deal effectively with their divorce-related losses. 

Our culture has little tolerance for the normal, healthy work of mourning. Few adults had the benefit, in childhood, of seeing their own parents deal effectively with important losses. Without such models, and without support from cultural institutions or the mass media, most adults react to loss by denying their pain or by seeking to escape from it. When their families are confronted with major losses, they model these reactions for their children, intentionally or not. As a result, the children's natural capacity for learning to grieve is suppressed; the pain and confusion persist, and are not dealt with; future losses trigger similar reactions; and the children grow into adults who accumulate growing burdens of ungrieved painful losses. 

27. Decide to seek help if your children are functioning poorly or if they are pretending that nothing has happened.
You can trust your judgment. Your children need help if they start to have serious school problems or fears; to refuse to spend time with others, or with a previously loved parent; to assault people or pets; to commit serious delinquent acts; to become depressed or to threaten suicide; or to develop persistent physical symptoms. Do get help.

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