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Therapy for Children's Grief
On the last track we discussed murder and how it affects grieving children. Three aspects of murder that we have discussed are how murder can create complicated grief, grief from murder may present differently, and productive anger from grief.
On this track we will discuss depression and melancholic features. As you know depression is normal following a loss. However, intense feelings of depression may represent clinical depression.
On this track we will discuss ways to differentiate between natural depression and clinical depression. Two signs to look for when evaluating a client for depression are normal behavior and clinical signs. As you listen to this track, consider a grieving client you are treating and how this information might apply related to depression.
#1 Normal behavior
Tom stated, "I expected Samantha to be sad about Grandma Phyllis’s death, but I’m starting to worry. Like I said I know she’s supposed to be sad, but Samantha has started to act strangely. About a week ago, she asked me how she could die so she could join Grandma in heaven. She also started talking about death a lot. Because I was worried, I asked the teachers at her school to keep an eye on her. On Tuesday, I got a call about a family picture Samantha drew which showed her Grandma in heaven and me standing next to Samantha’s dead body. Then Samantha’s counselor called and told me Samantha was telling the other kids that she was going to die soon."
Think of your Samantha. Does your grieving client have an preoccupation with death resulting from depression? As you know the DSM indicates that Melancholic-feature specifics include early morning wakening; psychomotor retardation or agitation; anorexia or weight loss; and excessive or inappropriate guilt, as discussed on the previous track. Atypical features include increased appetite or weight gain; hyper-somnia; sensitivity to perceived rejection.
#2 Clinical Signs
I then evaluated Samantha for further signs of clinical depression. I looked for poor concentration, withdrawal, change in eating and sleeping habits, constant sadness, and crying. Samantha did not show these signs of clinical depression. However, it was apparent that Samantha’s pain of grief was so intense that she wished for death herself.
Technique: Coping with Depression
1. The first technique I used was drawing happy and unhappy memories . Samantha had already used drawing as a technique to share her feelings when she drew her family picture. Therefore, drawing seemed like a technique from which she could benefit. First, I suggested Samantha draw a favorite memory. Samantha’s drawing was of her Grandmother baking cookies with her.
Because maintaining a balanced perspective on death can be especially important when dealing with children, I asked Samantha to also draw an unhappy memory. Samantha drew her Grandmother spanking her for drawing on the walls. Could drawing help your client cope with depression as well as maintain a realistic perspective on death?
2. The second technique I used was focusing on keepsakes. For this technique, I spoke with Tom, Samantha’s father. I encouraged him to spend time with Samantha focusing on treasured items related to Grandma Phyllis and photographs. Tom later stated, "I thought it would be a good idea to make a scrapbook. It was good to see Samantha smile as we talked about Grandma Phyllis."
Tom found that scrap booking and focusing on keepsakes provided an opportunity for open communication while doing an activity that benefited Samantha grief work. Think of your Samantha. Could she benefit from these techniques regarding coping with depression? Would it be helpful to use drawing and keepsake discussion explained on this track to act as a catalyst for grief work’s unresolved feelings.
On this track we have discussed depression. We very briefly discussed ways to differentiate between natural depression and clinical depression.
On the next track we will discuss fear. Three concepts
regarding fear are why children become afraid, manifestations
of fear, and identifying specific fears.
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