Experiencing Trauma and Grief: Be A Lighthouse
Kristin Miller, M. Ed.   •   May 9, 2024

When it comes to community, Children’s Lighthouse strongly believes in the power of creating a sense of comfort for today. During challenging times of grief, trauma, or uncertainty we hope to guide our children and families with love as the cornerstone. Being A Lighthouse during moments of trauma and grief means that you are helping others during this time by giving continuous support while they navigate through the challenges they are experiencing in the situation.

Trauma-Informed Research - Pediatric studies have found that more than half of American children under the age of 18 years old have experienced a traumatic situation in their early childhood years. Research shows that during the early years of growth and learning, trauma experiences or exposures to grief that are left unattended can increase risk factors in a child's physical, behavioral, and brain development.  Providing trauma-informed support and looking for alternatives to counseling or therapy during times of grief is crucial to helping support children and families. Helping build nurturing partnerships between home and school is part of the process of providing adequate support. In doing so, studies have shown that a child’s chance of increased risk is reduced. Having awareness and supportive resources to help children, parents, and schools during times of trauma can help improve behavioral outcomes, positively impact interactions, and may help reduce depression symptoms, stress, or anxiety from pro-longing.

Supporting Children, Parents, and Schools During Trauma-Related Situations - While navigating a challenging time, here are a few things to consider when helping support both children and adults:

  • Be present and an active listener to the individual grieving.
  • Use relational and empathetic language, such as “ I am with you” or “What do you need?”
  • Provide space for the individual grieving to express themselves, without judgment or blame.
  • Build awareness and education throughout the process, while remaining sensitive to the needs of the individual grieving.

Helpful resources and strategies if you or your child is experiencing trauma or grief:

  • Look for online resources and programs for trauma-informed care or behavioral therapy. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a current research-based program that has many helpful resources and tools on their website: https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/
  • Speak with your child’s pediatrician or seek advice from your medical home.
  • Reach out to a trusted friend or family member who will be present and an active listener.
  • Seek guidance from a counselor, licensed therapist, or specialist in your community.
  • Read a book on the trauma you or your child is experiencing to help process thoughts and emotions.
  • Exercise: Finding a local park, fitness gym, class, or YMCA in your area would be helpful. Physical activity has been shown through research to reduce stress and stimulate brain neurons which can promote productivity in a positive mindset and generate desirable behavioral patterns. Our 3E curriculum at Children’s Lighthouse promotes physical exercise for children throughout the learning day which supports them during times of stress or grief.
  • Journal writing or drawing can help an individual express themselves healthily by mentally noting their thoughts and feelings in a creative way that makes sense to them.
  • Get outside. Nature has been shown through research to support the social-emotional development of children and has been shown to help individuals process information in a way that reduces stress, alleviates overstimulation, and provides a calming sense of connection to the human experience when regulating one’s behavior.
  • Pets, or therapy animals, have been shown through research studies to help individuals regulate behavior and process emotional grief by offering a sense of companionship and calming presence for those who are experiencing and dealing with grief.
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