Understanding the Grief Experience and the Benefits of Peer Support
The grief experience is not a linear one—and it’s different for everyone. For some, processing grief begins right away after losing someone; for others, it doesn’t happen for weeks or months later. And even then, healing from grief will have waves of ups and downs.
It’s also crucial to understand a child’s grief experience is different than adults. Did you know that one in four children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18? Research shows that most children who have experience a loss in their life benefit from peer support.
Coping with Loss Through Peer Support
Peer support is not counseling. It is modeled around bringing grieving people together who share similar experiences. The goal is to form a compassionate community that supports and grows alongside one another. Children are placed in groups with others in their age range to bring a sense of comfort. Peer support groups are also open to those at any point in their grief, not necessarily right after the loss has happened. Participants can remain in the program for as long as they need support.
How to Heal and Grow from Grief
Healing and growing from grief takes time, but it doesn’t have to happen alone. Good Grief helps children navigate their grief and grow from the experience. Our evidence-based peer support groups continue to prove beneficial to the children at Good Grief.
The Benefits of a Peer Support Group
- Reduce isolation: At some point after loss, grieving children often find themselves isolated from friends and their community because they feel so different from others. This is why being in a group surrounded by other grieving individuals is so valuable. It creates a safe space to share their story and find support.
- Foster effective communication: It’s crucial for kids to be kids, and a peer support group allows for that to happen. Younger children tend to express themselves through activities such as play, music, art, and drama while older age children express themselves through engaging in conversations.
- Increase awareness and understanding: A peer support group helps to increase the awareness and understanding of grief. Often adults are unaware that a child is experiencing grief and can misinterpret their behavior. Likewise, the grieving child may not understand why they feel the way they do.
- Develop healthy support systems: Having a healthy support system means finding others who understand their grief. It also provides kids the opportunity to share their feelings with those who can relate.
- Identify supportive environments: Children in peer support groups find comfort being part of a supportive environment. The skills learned within these groups helps kids identify supportive spaces in other settings, such as at school.
- Navigate grief and its emotional and physical impact: Beyond learning about grief, a peer support program helps teach children how to navigate its emotional and physical impact. This includes identifying grief related feelings and behaviors.
- Build healthy coping skills: Peer support equips children to develop the skills needed to face their grief from the start. The tools learned within this program are ones they can use for the rest of their lives.
- Learn self-advocacy: Part of navigating grief is learning to speak up for yourself, including your feelings and needs. Children develop self-advocacy through the encouragement of peer support.
- Increase resiliency: Becoming resilient greatly helps children grow from the loss and adversities they face. Peer support teaches children how to become stronger through their experience.
- Navigate new ways to remain connected to the person who died: Healing from a loss isn’t about moving on and forgetting the person who died, instead peer support teaches children how to remain connected with their lost one.
Join a Peer Support Group at Good Grief
Our peer support groups meet at our Family Support Centers located in Morristown and Princeton, NJ. We are always open to new participants. To learn more or attend our programs, contact Good Grief by calling 908-522-1999 or emailing us online.