TIPS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH: About the loss during the pandemic

Message for parents, teachers, professional associates and mental health professionals: In addition to this text, we have prepared a leaflet about loss for children and adolescents (on Croatian language). Print it out or share it electronically with your students or adolescents you work with! The leaflet is free to print and distribute, except for commercial use.

Each of you had expectations about what this school or calendar year would look like, and that certainly didn’t include the global health crisis we are in. Given that these expectations, at least for now, have probably remained unfulfilled, it is natural that this carries with it the regret that your lives do not look the way you envisioned them. Physical distancing and lack of connection with peers in the current situation are difficult in themselves. It is also expected that you may find it difficult to understand how best to apply all the rules and restrictions that apply, as well as to understand why it is all-important that you now behave in a certain way. When there is a loss of expectations or important life events in all this, everything becomes even more difficult and complex.

When the word loss is mentioned, most people think of loss in the form of the death of a loved one. The death of a loved one is a loss, but there are other types of losses that people experience throughout life. In addition to the loss of loved ones, some losses can also be material, such as, for example, the loss of a bicycle or wallet that has been stolen or lost, as well as the loss of an apartment damaged in an earthquake. Finally, there are those losses that we often do not see as such, and these are the so-called abstract or symbolic losses. These may include loss of self-confidence, hope that a situation will get better, or loss of a sense of security. Although all types of losses depend on how a person experiences them, with symbolic losses this can be even more pronounced, ie the same situation will cause a feeling of loss in one person and not in another. An additional difficulty associated with symbolic losses stems from the fact that people often tend to downplay the importance of such losses, although they can be just as severe and cause the same reactions as some material losses or losses of loved ones.

The last two months have brought with them a lot of losses for all people, and especially for young people. All adolescents experienced a loss of routine, the daily routine of going to school, seeing their peers but also teachers, going to trainings, to music school, to foreign language schools and to many other activities that made up their lives. Try to think briefly about the period since you stopped going to school. Some of the things you expected probably didn’t happen during that period. A lot has changed and you probably missed some events. In addition, you may already know or assume that some of your expectations regarding the near future will not be met. As the school year draws to a close and you gradually get used to the isolation that has been going on for some time, most of you are probably thinking about some important events that you will miss. Some of these events will be postponed, but some will also be canceled. These may be some of the situations you may have thought of or that will remind you of some that you may not have thought about, but still apply to you:

  • Cessation of extracurricular activities (foreign languages, sports, music school, creative workshops…)
  • Interruption of musical, sports or any other performances and competitions
  • Impossibility of group celebration of one’s own birthday celebration or celebration of a close person
  • Inability to hang out with friends live, go to concerts, clubs, matches
  • Termination of the routine of going to school
  • Losing the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and mark the end of the school year
  • Losing the opportunity to say goodbye to the school and those who work there before you graduate
  • Graduation, ie graduation trip
  • Gathering of high school graduates on the occasion of graduating from high school (noriada)
  • Prom
  • Change of plans related to the preparation and holding of the state graduation


In addition to the above situations, you may have experienced some that are not closely related to pandemic isolation decisions, such as the death of a loved one, an illness that affected your health or the health of your loved ones, or you live in an earthquake-damaged area. to which you lived. In addition, while most of these losses may apply to all adolescents, the last few of these losses are related to high school completion. If you are currently a high school graduate, given that you are at an important turning point in your life during this period, you are probably going through a process of dealing with multiple losses because you do not have the opportunity to round off this chapter of your life in the expected way.

Some of the above situations are probably more and some less dear to you, so depending on that, the situation you find yourself in will be easier or harder to bear. It is quite understandable that the loss of certain obligations also brought you relief because it meant a reduced sense of pressure or more time to deal with the things you prefer. Still, you’ve probably recalled some situations that you care about and regret when you think about it not happening, or at least not going to happen the way you expected. If you feel sadness, sadness, disappointment, or discomfort while thinking about it, you have probably experienced a loss.



You may be wondering what now that you have concluded that you have experienced various losses during this period. Talking about losses and seeking support make it easier for you to deal with losses. When loss occurs, it can cause various reactions. A person may think a lot about what they have lost, feel disbelief about everything that is happening, may feel confused, and may have difficulty concentrating and remembering. In addition, he may feel sadness, anger, worry, confusion, guilt, and a number of other unpleasant emotions. Sometimes people who have experienced a loss say they feel empty. There may be changes in the rhythm of sleeping and eating so the person sleeps more or less than usual or their appetite changes. You may have found yourself in some of the reactions listed. If you are not, know that in addition to the above, there are a number of reactions to the loss and that they are all natural, that is, understandable given what you are going through. Two people who have experienced the same loss may react differently to it, so you and your friends may have similar but also different reactions. It is good to remember that no reaction is better than the other, but it is exactly like that, yours.

After a person experiences a loss, the grieving process begins. This process is not easy and to cope with the loss a person must have the opportunity to feel the feelings associated with it in order to accept the loss and adjust to the fact that life continues to flow without what it has lost. There are no rules for grieving and each person mourns in their own way, and it is only important that they have the opportunity to express their grief in the way that suits them best. Maybe some of you don’t feel ready for the grieving process, it’s hard for you to accept that you may not be back in school any time soon, and that’s okay. On the one hand, grief cannot be hastened and it will come when you are ready for it. Yet, on the other hand, grief should not be avoided just because it is painful, and to better deal with it, the support of family, friends, and other close people around you is important. Think about whether you have the opportunity to share your losses with the people around you. If you have, think about how they react. Typically, people can react to a loss in a variety of ways, some of which can be helpful, and others, while expressed in good faith, can make it harder for you to cope with losses.




“Replacement” of the lost

Many people try to make up for these losses in some way. For some losses this reaction is not common, but for some, especially symbolic ones, it is. For example, in certain situations, you will try to cancel important events by yourself or with the help of others, so you will find a way to symbolically mark or hold these events online. So you will try to make up for part of what you lost. For example, you will hear from friends virtually, listen to lectures online, and perhaps mark the end of the school year through a group video call. This is certainly useful and can be helpful because it restores a sense of stability and control to some extent.

However, the fact that there are alternatives does not mean that they can completely replace what you have lost and that it should no longer be difficult for you. For example, it’s good to have the option of communicating with friends via video call, but that doesn’t mean you won’t miss the earlier way to communicate with peers because a video call can’t replace live contact. Going to school is a daily habit that greatly shapes routine and life, it is a place where socializing and communicating with peers is spontaneous, as well as a place where you can socialize with those peers who may not be your close friends.

Alternatives are good when they aim to provide you with a symbolic act of experiencing a situation that you do not have the opportunity to experience in the usual way. In addition, they are useful if they are timely and come at a time when you are aware of the loss, have had the opportunity to talk about how you feel and are ready for them, and to complete the grieving process. The alternative should not mean that everyone will continue to act as if nothing happened because that would mean denying the loss.



When people see that a person close to them is grieving, they often, in a desire to comfort them, compare that person’s losses with the losses of other people. By doing so, they try to show that there are people who are in much more difficult situations and probably think it will help a person, but in fact, the person gets the message that their loss is not important enough. For example, a parent may tell you, “There are young people who have lost their home in an earthquake, those who are sick, or whose parents have lost their jobs. Fortunately, you have it all, it doesn’t matter that you won’t have a prom night. ”

Sometimes individual losses really seem small compared to those encountered by other people. Still, every loss is worth it and deserves to be mourned, no matter the current situation. Only in this way can a person give that loss the importance it deserves in order to move on, stronger and more ready to deal with new challenges. We cannot compare losses. It is difficult for those whose parents have lost their jobs, but also for those who are sad because they will not have a prom night. They probably don’t feel the same, but both can suffer and deserve understanding for it. Comparing losses and ranking by weight people sometimes use to give or take away permission to feel sad, but feelings don’t work that way and we can’t stop them if we think they’re wrong. In addition, comparing losses can trigger guilt in a person who is grieving. If you feel that way, it’s important to know that your losses are worth what they are, they don’t deserve concealment or repression. If you believe you have no right to share grief over the loss you have experienced, it can only complicate the grieving process.

There is another way of comparison that you may have had the opportunity to hear in the current situation, which can be distracting. Parents or teachers can tell you that it is easier to experience loss when you share it with all your peers. For example, you may have once heard something like this: “I know it’s hard for you, but all your friends are in the same situation, no one goes to school and everyone has to be home.” Adults may think that if no one sees their peers and goes to school, then it is not that difficult because they are all in the same situation. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes having a similar loss experienced by others can help because a person may be more likely to experience understanding. However, the fact that many young people are now in a difficult situation can also increase the feeling of the seriousness of the loss because it sends the message that these are large-scale changes. No matter how you feel about your losses, you have a right to it.


Everyone says you should be grateful

You may have heard or read in recent months that it is important to focus on the good things you have in life, despite losing some. You may also have talked to family members about what you are all grateful for in this situation. Gratitude is a feeling that serves as a reminder that, even when there are some things in life that are difficult, there is still a lot of good. Remembering everything you are grateful for can improve your mood and help you feel better.

But if you’ve experienced losses and are in the process of grieving, and others are constantly reminding you of things you should be grateful for, you may have felt that it didn’t help you. For example, people close to you may say, “You will not go to prom, but be thankful that you are healthy and that you can learn, go to the store. You will have time to travel in life. ” Emphasizing gratitude seeks to encourage people to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. While basically such a way of thinking may not be harmful, it can be completely at odds with the condition of the person experiencing the loss, putting before them the task of feeling happy when grieving, and devaluing her current feelings.

In the current situation, others may also mention the importance of targeting the bigger picture and pointing out that by staying at home you are indirectly caring about the health of those at risk and reducing the likelihood of spreading the infection. Some of you may find such comments encouraging and help you give meaning and significance to all the losses you have experienced. Still, it is understandable that it will not stop the feelings associated with loss. Through the grieving process and its rounding off, there will probably come a time when you will be able to think about all the losses you have experienced, but keep in mind that the best time to do that is when you are ready and it is okay if you find it difficult to look at the situation. where you are.

Grief and gratitude can be connected, but it is important that they do not cancel each other out, but complement each other. A person may at the same time feel gratitude for all the good he has in life, but also feel loss for the things he has lost, it does not have to be either one or the other. Gratitude is important, but it does not have the magical power of freedom from grief and should not be used as a substitute for recognizing the right to grieve. You have the right to be both grateful and sad at the same time.



In the text so far, we have looked at the reactions of the environment that can cause feelings of guilt and misunderstanding due to grief, as well as repression of thoughts about what you have lost. If you encounter such reactions, offer these people your view of the situation and try to point out to them what you need from them. You can also have them read this text to better understand your perspective.

Yet, a lot of parents and other adults who care about you will be able to properly show understanding for the situation you are in, without diminishing the loss or distracting attention from your feelings. For example, parents or other close people may ask you how you are feeling or tell you that they are proud of you and how you are dealing with the new situation. It is helpful to talk about losses and it is good to take advantage of such opportunities and confide in them about how you are feeling.

Some of you will think different things in such situations, some of which are not very useful for you. For example, if you think that praise for holding up well means that you have to be strong and calm and endure everything that happens to you without regret, know that it is not so. Take the opportunity to feel safe to share your thoughts and feelings of loss, especially when there is a person next to you who is willing to listen to you. Even if you are now occupied with other worries, it is good to give yourself time to become aware of the loss and your feelings about it, and then seek support from others in dealing with those feelings.


By: Mirna Čagalj Farkas, MSc. of psychology, Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center



Profaca, B. and Puhovski, S. (2005.) Kako pomoći tugujućem djetetu. [How to help a grieving child] Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, Zagreb.

Arambašić, L. (2005). Gubitak, tugovanje, podrška. [Loss, grief, support.] Jastrebarsko: Slap Publishing.


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   

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