What Do Kids Understand About Grief?

Children and adolescents will need help understanding death and grief, This help will come from parents, caregivers, family members, friends, teachers and other supportive caring adults. Adults providing support for a grieving child should provide safe places for him or her to grieve. Youth need acceptance from adults of their unique grief journey in a nonjudgmental way. Sensitive and supporting adults will help kids understand that his or her grief is a journey and not a one-time or short duration event.

As adults help kids work through and understand grief there are some common questions asked by kids:

1. Why Not Just Avoid Grief? We may think we want to avoid grief but really, it is the pain of the loss we want to avoid. Grief is the healing process that ultimately brings the child comfort in his or her pain.
2. What Is the Difference Between Grief and Mourning? Mourning is the external part of loss. It is the actions we take, the religious ceremony, rituals, and customs. Grief is the internal pain we feel.
3. When Does Grief End? Grief is a process, not an event. We live in a society that places enormous pressure on kids and adults to get through the grief “move on” with his or her life. There is no timeline for grief death happens in time but the emotional aftermath last a lifetime. A child or adolescent will grieve as long as they need to.
4. Are There Stages or Phases of Grief? There are five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Children do not experience or express their grief the same way adults do. Youth usually don’t openly talk about how they are feeling, what they are thinking, or that a death in his or her life makes them feel different. Grief support groups can be extremely helpful for children and adolescents. Support groups provide the child or adolescent a safe place to talk and share their emotional distress with others who have experienced similar feeling.

When a child or adolescent experiences the pain of grief give them time and opportunities to talk, about his or her feelings and fears. Create opportunities for them to vent pent-up emotions of anger, sadness, guilt, and despair. Sharing our feelings can be one of the most effective ways to encourage kids to express their emotions, while listening carefully to understand what the child or adolescent is really saying.

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