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Little Girl


Children express grief differently than adults. There are several factors that may have an effect on how they grieve, including age, emotional maturity, circumstances of the loss and relationship to the deceased.

Because children are still developing, they may revisit their grief at various stages throughout their lives. As they develop, their understanding will grow, they will comprehend the loss in new and more complete ways.

These are a few guidelines to follow in helping your child cope with their grief. Remember that the experience of loss is unique for each child. With the support and guidance of caring adults, they will develop life coping skills and become stronger as they work their grief in healthy ways. If you have specific concerns about your child consult with your pediatrician or school counselor.


Railroad Set


0-2 years

  • No understanding

  • May miss or ache for the sound, smell, sight or feel of someone

  • Baby may express grief by rocking, crying, sucking, biting, throwing, indigestion

  • Physical contact, reassurance

  • Lots of holding

  • Meet immediate physical needs

  • Baby may respond to adult grief, will revisit grief

Playing in Nursery


2-5 years

  • Concrete and literal

  • Death reversible- person is coming back

  • Magical thinking

  • Expresses feelings through play

  • Asks questions over and over

  • May regress

  • Death affects sense of security – “who will take care of me?”

  • Simple and truthful answers, using correct words such as died and dead

  • Looks to primary caregiver for reassurance

  • Maintain structure and routine

  • Allow to cry during nightmares

Female Student


6-10 years

  • Death final, irreversible but not universal

  • Play still primary for expression of grief

  • Grief may affect school responsibilities

  • Family is main security

  • Safety critical

  • May ask for detailed, sometimes explicit answers concerning death

  • May feel death is a punishment, they caused it

  • Communication between home and school

  • Egocentric-how will their life change – needs reassurance

  • Needs to choose how to be involved with process and services

Teen study group


10-13 years

  • Adult understanding

  • Guilt: I caused it

  • Heightened emotional turmoil

  • May swing back and forth in dependency

  • May appear unaffected, cold or crass

  • Begins to integrate events

  • Be authentic and reassuring

  • Remind child of parent’s ability to continue to care for him

  • Expect internal body problems—headaches,stomachaches, colds, etc.

  • Expect and accept emotional swing

  • Reminder that it will not always be so raw

  • Find peer support

Smiling Lady


13-19 years old

  • Discussion of events is means of processing grief

  • Self conscious about being different due to loss

  • Affected physically, sleep and eating patterns

  • Unrealistically responsible

  • Peer group of utmost importance – may reject parents and be non-communicative

  • Reckless with their own life to prove they are not vulnerable

  • Expect thoughts and feelings to be contradictory and inconsistent

  • Critical events in their life will stimulate thoughts and grief

  • Expect increased energy activity or prolonged sleep

  • May reject parents

  • They appear childlike and in need

  • Adult support and validation

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