How Children Process Grief & How To Help

Children of all ages can sense and experience grief. Based on their developmental stage, they react and grieve in different ways.

How Do Babies and Toddlers Grieve?

Babies and toddlers (0-2 Years) do experience grief. They become anxious if their significant person goes missing and respond to the change.

Common Reactions

  • – Irritability, crying and being more clingy
  • – Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • – Weight loss

How To Support

  • – Keep them close with their family members/caregivers
  • – Hold them close and cuddle more
  • – Be calm around them
  • – Try not to skip the routines
  • – Provide their favourite toys, comforters, and other things

How Do Pre-Schoolers Grieve?

Pre-schoolers (3-4 Years) often feel insecure, confused, and scared with the loss of a loved one. They need to be reassured that they are safe, loved, and looked after.

Common Reactions

  • – Frequent tantrums, crying, and more clingy
  • – Acting out feelings
  • – Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • – Less active/showing less interest in regular activities
  • – Withdrawal and temporary regression
  • – Looking out for the person they lost

How To Support

  • – Give them honest answers (use words such as dead and explain them instead of saying lost or passed away to avoid confusion)
  • – Comfort and support them with hugs and holding hands
  • – Keep up routines
  • – Introduce creative play
  • – Use storybooks, toys, and play to explain to them the real situation

 

How Do Primary Schoolers Grieve?

Primary schoolers (5-12 Years) usually know what death is and can even associate it with other people they love. You can also expect a lot of questions from them. So, just be prepared to answer them honestly and show lots of love and affection.

Common Reactions

  • – Blame themselves for their dear one’s death
  • – Shows behavioural issues
  • – Complaints of tummy ache or headache
  • – Temporary regressions
  • – Distracted, forgetful and lack interest
  • – Trying to please or protect adults by suppressing their emotions

How To Support

  • – Listen to their thoughts and explain them honestly
  • – Express your feelings towards the loss so that they can express theirs
  • – Encourage activities, play and exercises
  • – Keep them close to their caregivers
  • – Maintain routine
  • – Create normal boundaries around expected behaviour

How Do Teenagers Grieve?

Teenagers (13-18 Years) experience a range of emotions, from feeling embarrassed to having suicidal thoughts while grieving.

Common Reactions

  • – Isolation
  • – Distracted, defiant and irritable
  • – Reckless behaviours
  • – Anger, fear, mood swings and outbursts
  • – Emotional regression
  • – Difficulty in expressing their feelings

How To Support

  • – Be honest about the situation
  • – Talk to them and encourage them in every possible way
  • – Acknowledge and share your feelings
  • – Avoid expecting adult behaviours
  • – Seek professional help