Unit 5 Social Workers Talk Ways To Support Grieving Children | WGLT

Unit 5 Social Workers Talk Ways To Support Grieving Children

Dec 6, 2018

Unit 5 social workers are emphasizing the role a parent plays in the lives of children experiencing trauma.

This comes a day after a school bus carrying Normal Community West High School's JV girls basketball team collided head-on with a semi, killing two adults.

Rosann Emerson-Fox, a social worker at Normal West, said everyone experiences trauma differently, and there is no wrong way to grieve.

“Yes, I’m going to have these feelings, and that they’re going to hit me at any moment,” Emerson-Fox said. “That there’s no specific time period for when you should be adjusted to a loss.”

She said parents should be aware that trauma can trigger emotions and memories of past losses.

Another Unit 5 social worker, Hillary Tanner, specializes in trauma. She said parents need to understand it is OK for their child to experience a range of emotions.

“When some kids might experience what might be traumatic sadness for some of us, anger might be happening for other kids,” Tanner said. “So you might kind of have this moment where your body shuts down. And so it’s just what happens in your brain for some, others might be kind of in that moment what we call collapse.”

She said parents should let their child be the one to lead conversations about their trauma and not to force it.

But equally important, Emerson-Fox said, is to also take care of yourself as the parent.

“Helping your child go through this is not easy for yourself, so you’re going to need to implement some self care as well,” she said.

Emerson-Fox and Tanner along with Hammitt School’s Kris Baber and Illinois State University Professor of Psychology Valeri Farmer-Dougan compiled this list of pointers for parents looking for guidance at this time.

  • Be present to the feeling and give lots of reassurance.
  • It’s going to be hard to label the feeling, so help them give a name to the feeling as it’s experienced.
  • Remind them of their personal safety at the present moment, because trauma resurfaces in various ways.
  • Reassure that one can be expecting a flood of emotions and that there is no “right” way to grieve. It’s OK to laugh, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to be numb.
  • Re-establish your sense of normalcy and routine for your family and know that if may look different than other families, and that is okay.
  • Remember that you as parents will be experiencing a variety of emotions and that it may be a different pace or intensity than of your child.
  • Be patient with yourself through the grieving process. There is no set timeline of when we should be adjusted. We tend to get frustrated with ourselves thinking, “I should be better.” But that’s not how grief works. It’s just that ... a process.
  • Remember that new loss triggers memories of previous losses and that this compounds and complicates grief.
  • Know your resources at Normal West (two social workers, a psychologist, Project Oz, and Normal Police Department) as well as resources in the community.
  • Helping your child and yourself to self-care.

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.