By: David Lee Sexton, Jr., MSGrief is a universal burden that all of us are forced to endure all too frequently in our lives. For children, the loss of a parent is likely one of the most profound sources of grief imaginable. Unfortunately, children of military service members are at greater risk of having to endure this unthinkable weight. The inherent dangers that service members face are likely on the minds of their family members all too often. Children will worry about the safety of their deployed parent, and spouses’ worries are two-fold; they must worry about the safety of their loved one, and how they will manage their own grief, in addition to the grief of their children, should the unthinkable happen.
It may be difficult to comfort children who have experienced parental loss. As adults, we still struggle when faced with grief, and sometimes find it difficult to express how we feel, mourn, and find some semblance of normalcy or hope following tragedy. Can you imagine how much more difficult it must be for young children? Perhaps one of the best ways to help is to ensure that your children do not feel alone. They may have difficulty rationalizing their loss and begin to feel isolated or hopeless. In this case, it may be beneficial to give them something to relate to, so that they can begin to understand the nature of grief itself: it is natural and it affects us all.
Black Jack Jetty by Michael A. Carestio follows the story of Jack, whose father tragically loses his life in Afghanistan. The tale chronicles Jack’s struggle to come to terms with his loss, and culminates in Jack learning to cope with his loss through celebration of life and family. The story is inspired by the author’s loss of his own father, and provides a relatable narrative to help children who have lost a parent come to terms with their own loss. Jack’s struggle with his grief is realistic, depicting all the raw emotion one might experience during mourning, to help readers realize their emotions are normal. At the closing of the book, the author provides support to readers and writes about what children can expect while coping with their own loss. To learn more about this useful resource, click here.
Want to Learn More?
Check out MFLN Family Development’s Podcast Anchored. Episode 13-Handle with Care: Helping Children Cope with Parental Loss. During this episode, Irene McClatchey, Ph.D., discusses the effects of grief on children and how to effectively intervene in order to help them process the loss of a parent through illness, injury, or death. Dr. Irene McClatchey is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker currently serving as an Associate Professor and Director of the MSW program at Kennesaw State University. After an extensive sojourn in hospice, Irene developed children’s bereavement groups and grief camps and designed new treatment tools for work with children experiencing grief. Irene left the clinical arena in 2003 to further her knowledge about children and grief through studies and research.