The Youngest of Us: Grieving COVID-19 One Year Later
By now, it has been one year since COVID-19 swept through the world, closing schools and businesses. Many of us have seen the signs of complicated grief within ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. However, we tend to look over the grief that the youngest of us are going through.
When I’m not working as a BHIS Counselor, I am working as a school based mental health therapy intern. In both of my jobs, I’ve noticed the increase of anxiety, depression, and anger as we have inched closer and closer to the one-year mark of COVID-19. The kids may not see it, but they feel it. Spring Break is coming up for many kids and this brings the memories of this time last year to the forefront of their minds. Last year they were getting ready for a week off to have fun and relax, but that’s not what they got. Last year they expected that they were going to come back and see their friends again, but that’s not what happened. Understandably, kids are anxious about Spring Break because they are afraid that what happened once will happen again.
We know that kids grieve differently than adults do. It’s expected that those same feelings and behaviors would come back up as we come up on one year of COVID-19. A kid may be a little clingier due to worrying that they won’t get to go back to school after Spring Break. They may fall behind in school or have difficulty studying and concentrating. They may have difficulties sleeping while worrying about everything that has happened in this last year. Their anxiety, sadness, and anger may come about as behavioral reactions such as acting out in school, talking back at home, or changes in play (talking more about death).
So, what can we do for the youngest of us, for those we love? If you notice your child or teen struggling to work through feelings of grief and loss the best thing you can do is, ask them about it. We don’t know unless we ask. It’s also helpful to be honest with them about how you are feeling as we come up on this anniversary. Acknowledge the losses of this last year and let them know that they are not alone in their grief. Let them know it is okay to feel all their feelings. Be patient with the children in your life. They are resilient, but grief comes in waves, it does not move on a straight path. When moments of grief come up respond with warmth, comfort, and understanding each time. Lastly, make sure to take care of yourself too, because kids look to the adults in their life to learn how to deal with their feelings. If you or your child are struggling with feelings of loss and grief, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Heart and Solutions.