Grief In Children: How To Help And Understand Them

Grief in children: how to help and understand them

When there is a death in the family or circle of friends it is difficult for all of us. However, we must not forget that the children also suffer from this. However, we don’t always understand how they grieve. Grief and grief in children is difficult to understand. We see them acting differently than we would expect, and we don’t know what to do to help. Doesn’t it affect them the same as it does adults? Or do they show it in a different way?

What actually happens is that the little ones do understand, but they process the grieving in different ways. It all depends on what stage they are in. Understanding how children experience grief or loss as adults will help us better help them through these difficult times. Keep reading!

Grief and grief in children under three years old

In these first years of life, children are physically and emotionally very dependent on the person who takes care of them. This role is usually filled by the mother. When this figure who has given so much protection and love dies, the child suffers greatly.

Although they do not understand what death is and what its consequences are, they do notice that the person who has been the cornerstone of their lives is no longer there. Therefore, from the age of six or eight months, it is possible to recognize behavior in babies that shows that they are suffering. This important person is gone and they have the intuition that they will not see her again.

They feel that they have been abandoned and that they are now unprotected. They look for the missed person with their eyes or are inconsolable, waiting for her to return. There may also be a rejection of new protective figures, or sleep disturbances, eating problems or tantrums. In children who can already talk, you can see them asking about the person who died, although after a few minutes they seem to forget they were talking about it.

At this age, it is very important that children feel loved and protected by someone else as soon as possible. This will not stop them from waiting for the deceased person to return. However, it will help to overcome the sadness, and little by little, normal life will return.


Grief and grief in children between the ages of three and seven

When children are between three and seven years old, they have more skills and understanding than when they were younger. However, they do not understand that death is irreversible. It is therefore very common for them to insist that they see the deceased again, even though we explain to them that this will not happen.

Although they think that the person will return, the absence causes a lot of negative emotions. Fear, sadness, anger or guilt are some of these feelings. The child feels abandoned and separation anxiety usually occurs. This happens not only psychologically, but is also reflected in their behavior.

Grieving in children often leads to bad behavior, disobedience or tantrums. They may also not want to be involved in new activities, they may wet the bed or have nightmares. This is normal and usually disappears over time. If not, it may indicate that the child is not coping well with the grief and needs the help of a psychologist.

Grief and grief in children aged six or seven to eleven or twelve years old

From the age of six or seven, children begin to understand exactly what death is and what someone’s death actually means. The way to process the grief is now changing a bit. The first thing that usually happens at this age is rejection and denial. This can’t happen! Isn’t this the way you reacted when you were told about the death of a loved one?

Boy playing guitar

In addition to denying this fact, it is also normal for children to feel guilty or to blame the deceased. That’s because they are at a stage in their lives where they embody everything. Other feelings such as anger or fear also come to the fore. The latter usually manifests itself in the constant need to be with the people they love because they fear they will die too.

Violent behavior, rejection from other family members, aggression, nightmares or lack of concentration can also occur. It should not be overlooked that a child can sometimes express a desire to be with the deceased. Therefore, we must be aware of possible suicidal thoughts.

It is very important that the people in the child’s life help him or her to accept the death of the person he or she loved so much. The child’s teachers, friends and relatives play a fundamental role in these difficult times and can help ease a child’s grief in a normal way as they progress through the grieving process.

Images courtesy of Tim Graf, Michal Parzuchowski and Laith Abuabdu. 

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