Some Common Expressions of Children's Grief

Shock — The child may not believe the death really happened and will act as though it did not. This is usually because the thought of death is too overwhelming.

Physical Symptoms — The child may have various complaints such as headaches or a stomachache and fear that he, too, will die.

Anger — Being mostly concerned with his/her own needs, the child may be angry at the person who died because he/she has been left “all alone” or that God didn´t “make the person well.”

Guilt — The child may think that he/she caused the death by having been angry with the person who died, or may feel responsible for not having been “better” in some way.

Anxiety and Fear — The child may wonder who will take care of him/her or fear that some other person he/she loves will die.

Regression — The child may revert to behaviors he/she had previously outgrown, such as bed wetting or thumb sucking.

Sadness — The child may show a decrease in activity – being “too quiet.”

It is important to remember that all of the reactions outlined are normal expressions of grief in children. In the grieving process, time is an important factor. Experts have said that six months after a significant death in a child´s life, normal routine should be resuming. If the child´s reaction seems to be prolonged, seeking professional advice of those who are familiar with the child (e.g., teachers, pediatricians, clergy) may be helpful.