DeKALB – Delinda Grindle said there’s no right or wrong way to grieve for the loss of a loved one. But it needs to be healthy.
“You should be making good choices that work you through your grief rather than making choices to divert your grief,” said the director of grief counseling at KP Counseling in Rockford.
Grindle spoke to 22 Northern Illinois University counseling students and educators Tuesday on how children and teenagers cope with death. She said despite all of the resources that exist for grieving, each person is unique in this process.
“Our job is to listen and to learn,” Grindle said, describing the counselor’s role as being an “active, nonjudgmental listener.”
She drew a distinction between grieving and mourning. Grieving is what a person does on the inside, while mourning is an external expression of grieving. In that aspect, Grindle said, “mourning is a choice.”
But even though every person goes about the grieving and mourning process differently, Grindle said the death of a loved one can adversely affect children, teenagers and adults.
In school, children and teenagers could begin to lose interest in grades and begin to act in a variety of ways. Grindle made numerous mentions to grievers taking part in high-risk activities or using drugs and engaging in sex. These kinds of activities, however, only divert someone’s grief, Grindle said.
Isolation can also occur. In addition to withdrawing from school, Grindle said a person can withdraw emotionally, socially and even spiritually.
There were also a number of phrases Grindle advised against using. For instance, people should never say to someone who’s grieving “to get over it.”
“You don’t get over the death of somebody you loved,” Grindle said. “To get over it ... it’s almost like they never existed.”
She also advised against using euphemisms – like “Grandpa went to sleep” – to talk to kids about death.
“You need to use direct verbage, and dependent on their developmental age, how to go into that,” Grindle said, noting that there’s a difference between talking to a 5-year-old and an 18-year-old. “But you want to be very careful with your language.”
She also voiced disapproval of phrases such as “You are the man or woman of the house now,” as a child or a teenager might internalize that comment and start to play that role. Grindle said a child should not play the role of mother or father if one of them passes away, even as much as the surviving parent wants them to, it’s not their role.
As the audience was geared to students studying counseling and other aspects of mental health, Grindle addressed how they can earn the trust of and build rapport with their potential clients.
She gave numerous tips, including giving the child or teenager choices whenever possible or use physical outlets like exercise. Grindle said she went on many walks with a few of the students she has advised.
Grindle’s lecture is one of two NIU students will be hearing on the grieving process. On Tuesday, NIU students will have the chance to listen to Kelly Farley, a father who wrote a book on grieving after two of his children died within an 18-month period.
Both lectures are sponsored by the NIU chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, an international honor society of counselors, and the NIU Counseling Association.