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Grief in Children- What to look for

Published: July 18, 2022

What grief signs to look for in my child

Grief is a difficult subject to talk about, especially when talking about it to a child for the first time. This is especially true with young children who may not understand the permanency of death. However, it is important to do so as even infants and toddlers can express distress without being told about the loss because they recognize distress in their caregivers. For further information, please consult a physician or grief therapist. This is not a comprehensive list. 

How grief expresses in children

Grief doesn't just express as one symptom, especially in children who are trying to express such a big experience. 

Commonly children experience:

Denial 

Clingy 

Regression in previously mastered task such as limited speaking or bed wetting

Sleeping disturbances 

Change in play

Guilt

Grief can express as big feelings such as: anger, sadness, worry, relief, fear, or numbness. 

Sometimes it can be confusing for a child and overwhelming to have so many emotions. They may feel like they are out of control and could try and regulate their feelings through physical reactions. 

Grief as physical reactions: it can be feeling sick, sleepy, not wanting to eat, headaches or not wanting to do things that used to be fun like basketball or playing with toys. 

Grief as thoughts, such as:

“Who will take care of me now that my mom died?"

“Why do people get cancer?"

“What will happen next?” 

"Will I get cancer too?"

"What if I brought COVID to grandpa?"

Talking about death is a hard conversation to have with adults, but explaining death to a child is even harder. Hopefully these signs of grief help to provide a guide on what to look for in your child as you navigate the grieving process together. 

 
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