As the weather warms up and more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, families are cautiously making social arrangements like birthday parties and playdates for kids again. However, this overdue reunion in the midst of a deadly pandemic could prove to be a somber affair for some children.
In the United States, an estimated 37,300 to 43,000 children experienced a parent dying of COVID-19, according to a research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics. In a pre-pandemic world, children facing loss might have taken solace in their peer support system or rituals like wakes or memorials to help them grieve. But with the banning of large gatherings, mandatory quarantine, remote schooling, and social distancing, children have been further isolated from the support the need.
“The statistic is so devastating ad heartbreaking,” says Carolyn Spiro, PhD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. “Death and grieving are universal, but COVID-19 has added another layer because it also disrupted so much of how we mourn.”
Encourage children to reach out and invite a grieving friend to whatever activities they’d typically be doing together. “We don’t want children who are grieving to feel that they’re ‘different,’” says Dr. Spiro. “We want them to know that they’re still loved, supported by, and connected to their friends and their communities. This is more important than ever after a loss.”
Read more from National Geographic.