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‘I am not the only one’; El Paso nonprofit helps children through coronavirus-related grief

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The pandemic has forced many individuals to adapt to a new lifestyle. As the months continue, the emotional toll of the pandemic remains heavy, especially on kids. Representatives from The Children's Grief Center of El Paso are reporting an increase in children struggling with depression.

Representative Laura Olague said many children are afraid that their parents will catch the virus. Olague says this fear can also present itself in children who have already lost a loved one to the virus, and those children might face new anxiety that surviving relatives could become sick too.

Olague said the mourning process can be difficult for children after a family member dies from coronavirus. She said some children might not believe the relative has actually died because they were not allowed in the hospital to say goodbye, which can make the death harder to process.

This anxiety can be exacerbated by economic uncertainties, Olague said. She also noted that children can feed off of the anxieties of parents too.

Parents should be aware of behavioral changes in their children, such as new anxious habits, an inability to sleep or focus in school or attempts to self-harm. These changes might signal the need for professional help.

"We want to pay attention to their mental health," Olague said. "If you don't pay attention now, as they get older, you just won't be able to get a grasp of it or get control of it. It will just, especially when they get to be teenagers, it will be more than the parent can handle."

The center offers age-appropriate support groups to remind children they are not alone in their grief.

"What we try to do is create an environment where they can be with other kids that are their age and have experienced a death, so that they immediately recognize 'I am not the only one. There are other kids here that have had somebody die,'" she said.

The nonprofit charges a fee for the service, but will work with families who cannot afford the fees to explore options for care. You can find more information here.

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Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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