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Grieving Children

Grief in children looks different from grief in adults, making it difficult to identify. Since kids cannot sustain emotional pain for long periods of time, they grieve in spurts. Episodes of tears and crying can be followed quickly by laughter and play.

Grief may present itself as changes in behavior, such as tantrums or with physical complaints such as stomachaches and headaches. Children have feelings they may not share–such as the fear that someone else they love may die or guilt that something they said or did caused their loved one to die. As they mature they may re-grieve the loss and need support long after adults think they are healed.

How You Can Help

  • Answer questions clearly and accurately
  • Maintain structure and routine
  • Encourage a variety of outlets for grief
  • Model honest expressions of grief
  • Partner with school personnel to promote academic success
  • Keep the memory of the loved one alive

Grieving Teens

Teens respond more like adults. They may try to assume adult roles, participate in risk-taking behavior, struggle academically or socially, experience physical complaints and turn to peers for support while withdrawing from parents and adults. At this developmental stage, they may struggle with identity issues.

How You Can Help

  • Create rituals to honor the deceased
  • Allow for changes in mood and maturity level
  • Answer questions and provide factual information
  • Allow for flexibility in completion of schoolwork
  • Support relationships with understanding adults
  • Share your grief
  • Find a peer support group