Awa Jangha, an art therapist and pastoral counselor with Art and Spirit Counseling in Northeast, D.C., offers the following suggestions to parents and neighbors of youth experiencing grief. Using a holistic approach to therapy, Art and Spirit utilizes art media and faith to assist families through the grief process.

Grief and depression can look similar.

Over time if you notice that your child’s grief continues to affect his or her ability to do school work, socialize, sleep, eat, and/or engage in daily normal activities that they did prior to the death, then you may want to check in with them and with their school counselor to find out if any other events are contributing to their experience.

Parents should:

Maintain your normal routine to reinforce structure during a time when things feel unpredictable and possibly overwhelming;

Be open to grieving together – If the parent is close to the person who died it is important to remember that children and teens observe how adults close to them handle grief and tend to follow suit. If you completely hide your grief, your child may receive the message that it is not okay to cry, grieve, or talk about the person who died.

Other advice:

If you don’t know what to say, sometimes you do not have to say anything at all. Don’t let the idea of having to have the “right words” keep you from supporting others (children, classmates, etc.). Just your presence can be immensely helpful.

If there are court proceedings involved, reconciling the loss may be more of a challenge because often some of the grief work is postponed until litigation is completed.

Grief is a process that is different for each person. While each person’s experience may be unique, it is good to remember that you do not have to go through it alone and that it is normal to experience grief at unexpected times.