Death and loss are difficult topics to discuss, and resources to support both young people of color facing loss and those who educate them are limited. Since COVID-19 emerged as a threat, young people of color (and their families) have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with more Black and Brown families’ deaths, associated economic crises, and our nation’s social and racial justice reckoning. Losing a friend or family member due to violence has increased frequency, leaving individuals and community members struggling to find ways to cope and heal. Now more than ever, the difficult topics of death and loss must be brought to the forefront so we can best support our nation’s young people of color to prepare for loss and heal from it.

For children who have lost a parent, bereavement is considered an especially adverse experience, and the topic is often overlooked. It’s important to understand that loss happens to everyone and that feelings of grief are a normal response. Allowing oneself to experience grief, learn the meaning of the words associated with the various feelings that arise, and practice self-care can strengthen their mental health and their resilience, which can help them live overall healthier lives. When grief persists, and depression occurs, seeking help from a professional mental health practitioner is a step toward improving emotional well-being.

Peers talking with peers can often offer tremendous comfort to young people experiencing loss, whether from natural causes or in the tragic event of homicide or terrorist attack. They can use their own vocabulary and simply be present for each other. By encouraging conversations within a family, members can heal together and incorporate healthy responses to future crises. Language needs to be concrete. Acceptance and encouragement to get professional support if needed can provide assurance that a sense of normalcy can be achieved.

See below resources with helpful information about loss and bereavement:

The Grief Sensitive Schools Initiative: