Children’s Grief

Each child, like each adult, grieves differently and according to their own personality. However, children can experience behavioral stages.  Knowing these stages can help us support and care for children.

Here are some common reactions and ways you can guide children through grief. Support is also available through other organizations such as school and professional grief counselors, churches, bereavement support groups, etc.

 

  Age Appropriate Responses What You Can Do
Infants More crying

Thumb or finger sucking

Senses anxiety, sorrow

Keep to baby’s schedule

Keep baby in own home with few visitors

Talk to infant as you hold him

1 – 2 Years May display clingy behavior

Doesn’t want parent to leave

May sleep more

May wake frequently

May be more hyper or fussy

Be honest

Answer questions

Explain feelings and validate them

Remind them they did not cause the death

Keep to child’s schedule

Let them know they will be taken care of

3 – 5 Years Bedwetting is common

Unable to verbalize feelings

May ask questions and sometimes may ask the same question again.

Plays “death”

Reverts to baby talk

May want bottle and diapers

Answer questions even if you repeat the same answer often.

Be honest

Explain feelings and validate them

Talk about fears

With preparation, involve child in part of funeral

6 – 10 Years Plays “death” and “funeral”

Shyness may increase

Acting out may increase

Grades may suffer

School may become safe haven

May show anger

Be honest

Answer questions

Explain feelings and validate them

Provide journal

Offer love, understanding and support

Involve in funeral service

11 – Teens Anger is normal

Feelings that life is “unfair”

Acting out occurs/risky behavior

Philosophical talk with friends

Search for Spirituality

Talk openly about feelings and validate them

Encourage teens to talk to a school counselor

Encourage them to journal or draw

Tell them what you need

Let them tell you what they need

“No support group will be able to take away the hurt and sorrow, nor will they be able to magically end the grieving,” says Nora Garcia, Driscoll Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialist. “Support groups like Lean on Me will however, help you understand that your emotions related to your grief are normal and offer you the tools needed to help you and your family navigate through the grief journey. You will also meet others who have had similar experiences and what is helping them through their toughest moments. It is important to remember that the grief journey is a life-long process, and that’s ok. With time, you live with it in a different way, and that’s ok.”

Learn more about Lean on Me, which starts on Feb. 18: http://www.driscollchildrens.org/event/lean-on-me-support-group