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Grief is an emotional wound upon the heart.  Grieving is a process of healing that wound.

Stages of grief for kids move around:

  • Shock/ Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Sadness, Depression
  • Acceptance
  • Successful Tasks of Grieving
  • Accept reality of the loss
  • Experience the pain of grief
  • Adjust to the environment without the loved one
  • Withdraw one’s emotional energy from grieving and move forward to start new relationships

But Wait… Kids Grieve?

  • They do grieve, but it is different for kids
  • Their grief may be invisible
  •  “Silence is golden” (not good)
  • Children can handle the truth
  • Rituals aren’t for adults only


The grieving child may…

  • Retell events
  • Have dreams of the deceased
  • Feels the deceased is with him in some way
  • Wants to call home during school
  • Can’t concentrate on school work
  • Bursts into tears during class
  • Become class clown or withdraws
  • Sometimes appear unfeeling
  • Be overly concerned with caretaking needs
  • Seeks medical information on death of the deceased
  • Worries excessively about his own health


Factors Affecting Length of Grief:

  • How close was the child to the person that died?
  • How unexpected was the loss?
  • What age is the child?
  • What kind of death?


How to Respond:

  • Be mindful of their developmental level
  • Use their language, words
  • Emphasize they are not responsible
  • Don’t deny their feelings; affirm them
  • Get feedback
  • If they ask, explain the physical details (simplified)
  • Be honest; tell the truth
  • Make use of picture books, dolls/ puppets, art and allow for play
  • Talking with the child
  • No metaphors or clichés
  • Children grieve “in spurts”
  • Simple, factual replies to what the child is actually asking, no more
  • Be present
  • Listen
  • Affirm feelings
  • Follow their lead
  • Truthful- “I don’t know”
  • White Lies and half truths
  • What’s the problem?
  • Other people talk and children will overhear
  • Lies destroy trust
  • Child often imagines something much worse than the reality


Never tell children what they will have to unlearn later.


Grief is a process, not an event.  It’s not a problem that one needs to fix, solve or even “get over”.

Children almost always remember a loss despite not talking about it.

Children grieve differently than adults; they may express less sadness, talk less, or cry less.  But they are grieving in their own way.


What would you add to these suggestions?


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