Ten Things Grieving Children Want You to Know

#1 – Grieving children want to be told the truth.

• Tell grieving children the truth with these considerations in mind:

  • The age of the child
  • The maturity level of the child
  • The circumstances surrounding the death
  • Answer questions as honestly as you can

#2 – Grieving children want to be reassured that there will always be someone to take care of them.

• Grieving children spend a lot of time worrying about another person in their life who might die.

• To help alleviate this fear, it’s important to reassure them that there will always be someone in their life who will take care of them.

• Enlist the aid of their parent or caregiver to determine a plan for the children. Let the children know what the plan is.

#3 – Grieving children want you to know that their grief is long lasting.

• Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life.

• Grieving kids don’t “just get over it”.

• They will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.

• Their grief changes over time as they grow and change over time.

#4 – Children often cope with grief and loss through play.

• Children grieve through play.

• Typically, they cannot sustain prolonged grief.

• Children use play as a way to cope with their grief and to take a break from the grief.

#5 – Grieving children want you to know that they will always miss the person who died.

• People die, but love doesn’t die.

• Grieving children will miss the person who died for as long as they live.

#6 – Often, grieving children want to share their story and talk about the person who died.

• Having an opportunity to tell his or her story is often beneficial to a child’s healing process.

• Sharing memories about the person who died is also very important.

• Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died – they are also worried that others will forget their person.

#7 – Every child grieves differently.

• Every child has his or her own grief journey and own way of grieving.

• Some children might be more expressive with their grief.

• Some children might keep it all in.

• Siblings grieve differently.

• Just because children come from the same family doesn’t mean that their grief will be the same.

• It is important to honor each child’s story, even if it is different than his or her sibling’s story.

#8 – Grieving children often feel guilty.

• Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt.

• Even if the guilt is not justified and has no basis in reality.

#9 – Even though I might be acting out, what I’m really feeling is intense emotions of grief.

• Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared.

• Since they might not know how to express all of these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.

#10 - If you’re not sure what a grieving child wants, just ask him!

• When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help.

• Check in with the child – do they want to talk about the person who died? Maybe not.

• Expect myriad answers.

• Do they want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their grief?

• What do they need?

You can help grieving children by:

• Listening

• Really hearing them when you’re listening

• Following their lead

• Validating their feelings

• Answering their questions

• Seeking out additional resources, as needed

Posted by Pamela Gabbay, EdD, FT