What to Do When Children are Angry – It’s Grief and Loss

As with most of us, anger begins with frustration…with  saying, “No!”

We care about something, we want something…we don’t want something.

Complicated Bereavement in Children and Youth

Complicated Bereavement in Children and Youth

COMPLICATED BEREAVEMENT: Most of the children brought to me for help with too much anger are stuck in grief. We call this Complicated Bereavement or an inability to let go of  something in the past, to process the grief of loss and to move forward. They are stuck and unable to finish grieving and, therefore, they can’t let go and move on.

THEY NEED THEIR PARENTS: Children can’t know that they are needing to grieve; recognizing their state and helping them to let go is up to the adults who love them and care for them.

HEAR THEIR ANGUISH: Here’s one way to be a counselor or guide for a child needing to let go:

1. LISTEN TO THE STORY: As is true for all of us, first we need to ask them to tell the story of what makes them mad and what they are afraid to lose. And, just listen. Don’t placate, don’t deny, don’t try to make it better. Just hear the frustration, the anger and, then, underneath it, the anguish in the heart. And ask questions about what else. Help them get clear.

2. MIRROR THE VIRTUES: Help identify their heart’s desire and validate it’s goodness. For example, when parents get a divorce the children don’t have a choice. At least one of the children has the attitude: “Maybe the rest of you are giving up on our family but I’m the one who will hold onto the dream and will get it back for us.” This child has a devotion to the goodness of family. It’s a purely true value which is easy to validate. We can say, “Thank you for staying true to our family. You have a loving heart. You know what’s good.”

3. SAYING GOODBYE: Then mentor the child respectfully into letting go and feeling the sadness of losing something so precious. “Our family was really special. And, it has to change. It will never be the same again. We will never forget those times. Even though you want to be true to the family you loved so much, it’s time to say goodbye. And when we say goodbye to something so important, it’s very, very sad. We cry as we say goodbye. And we think about all the things that we loved, all the things that we’ll miss. Let’s remember the fun times and the things we want to take with us and the things we learned to like.”

4. ASK ABOUT DREAMS: Then don’t tell! ask! Guide the child to look forward into the future of their hopes and dreams. Ask the child to think about and tell you about what they want next. Ask about how he or she wants to hold onto the good things and bring them into the new family. Promise to keep the good memories as you create the new family. You will find that The Family Virtues Guide can be of immeasurable help.

The Family Virtues Guide

The Family Virtues Guide

If you have a child who is lost in Complicated Bereavement, please give me a call. I’d be happy to have a conversation about what will help finish the letting go process.

Always the best,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *