Children and Grief

While their reaction to death can vary greatly, one thing remains true: children and teens need your support along their journey through grief. Even babies and toddlers can sense loss. Especially for the youngest children, be sure to offer extra cuddles and snuggles during this time to help them feel a sense of security. 

As children get older, it becomes very important to be honest and clear with them about death. Saying that their loved one is “sleeping” or has “gone on a vacation” will confuse the child and can also make them more anxious or fearful. Being direct and factual is also important for older children, who might have more specific and deep questions following the death of a loved one. Be careful not to assume they don’t want to talk about it; without pressing, give them ample opportunities to share their feelings. Also, like adults, teenagers often benefit from other ways to process and manage their emotions such as drawing, listening to music, or spending time outside. Help direct them to healthy coping methods. 

Know that it is OK for children and teens to see you grieve. In fact, modeling the process of grief and healing helps them understand it is normal. Always reassure children of any age that what has happened is not their fault. And lastly, do not avoid bringing up the loved one who has passed. As you and the child are ready, it is important to share memories, talk about what you miss the most, and find other ways to keep their loved one’s spirit alive.