Children's Mental Health Services
Gateway Healthcare

Trauma and Complicated Grief

What to Expect When Your Child Is Affected by Trauma

Trauma is an emotional response to any real or perceived life-threatening situation. Children and youth often have varied emotional and physical reactions after experiencing a trauma that is emotionally painful, distressful or shocking. If unresolved, there are often lasting mental and physical effects.

Trauma can result from:

  • Abuse including sexual, physical and emotional or verbal abuses and/or witnessing domestic violence
  • Neglect when caregivers fail to fulfill their responsibilities to provide needed care
  • Disasters and events including but not limited to hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, war, victim of crime, serious car accidents
  • A death-related trauma in addition to being sudden, can also be violent or destructive and may involve many deaths. Trauma may also occur when the child has witnessed a long-term illness.

What Is Complicated Grief?

  • A child may experience complicated grief when death was sudden, traumatic and violent such as with homicide, suicide, overdose and accidents.
  • Complicated grief may develop if the child has already had previous multiple losses and/or if the deceased individual was abusive/neglectful to the child
  • A child may also experience complicated grief if there is inadequate or inappropriate support through their social network.

Individualized Therapeutic Services

The Trauma & Complicated Grief Team help children and youth cope with their emotional responses to the traumatic events, increasing their emotional stability, improving their functioning in activities of daily living, and developing their coping skills. Techniques used in helping children include trauma-focused therapeutic techniques to reduce symptoms; trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) for child and family members, psychoeducation regarding child sexual abuse issues, family therapy; psychiatric consultations, medication management, and care coordination.

Additionally, Gateway works collaboratively with FRIENDS WAY, Rhode Island's only bereavement center dedicated to supporting children through peer-to-peer support groups.