Grief and Loss in Children

Posted on October 22, 2012

The loss of a loved one is multifaceted for all who have experienced it.  Children, however, have a unique challenge of understanding death because child cognitive development is still occurring.  Death to a child is very different than death to an adult because children are limited in the ability to process abstract yet permanent ideas such as death.  Grief in children may look different than adult grief. Below, you will find tips to help your child through the grieving process.

Be Honest About Death

With care and compassion, tell your child the truth about death.  Explain that when death occurs, the physical person will no longer exist in the ways they are familiar with.  Grieving children typically struggle with this idea because the full concept of permanence comes later in child development.  Children, through experience, are still learning how permanence affects everyday life, thus complicating their understanding of death.  Continue to gently remind your child that the loved one will not be returning.

Care for Children and Their Emotions

Because death is confusing and children may have many questions about death, it is extremely important that you allow your child to feel and express all emotions that are present.  Remind your child that you share many of the emotions and talk through how the emotions are affecting each of you individually.  It’s okay to feel sad, angry, confused, and lonely.  Validate for your child that the loss he/she is feeling is normal and be cautious not to shame the emotional expressions of your child in their grief.

Speak about the Loss of a Loved One

Talking about the deceased is important because it reminds children that it’s okay to still remember the attributes of the deceased.  Telling stories about the deceased promotes the grieving process in children and brings comfort to the experience of death.  Labeling for your child the attributes that he/she shares with the deceased can bring a sense of connection to your child and will continue to help them process death in a healthy manner.

 

Written by: Kristie L. Watts, LMFTA

Kristie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at Groff and Associates Counseling.  Her passions are parent child relationships, grief and loss, and pregnancy related struggles.  If you are interested in seeing a counselor and think that Kristie would be a good fit, please contact her at kristie@groffandassociates.com.

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NzE6Imh0dHA6Ly9ncm9mZmFuZGFzc29jaWF0ZXMuY29tL3dwLWNvbnRlbnQvd29vX3VwbG9hZHMvMy1ncm9mZl9oZWFkZXIucG5nIjt9PC9saT48L3VsPg==