Signs of grief in a child

When a child experiences death their life may be greatly impacted.

Children will observe how adults express their emotions or not. They will learn how grown-ups react to questions about death.

Together with their age and developmental stage their observations and experience will set the foundations for how they will grieve.

Every family will find their own way to experience and manage their grief, sometimes this will be guided by religious or cultural influences.

Tips for helping children to grieve:

  • Be honest – answering questions as honestly and simply as you can when your child asks.
  • Create an extended network – so children can go to other trusted adults to talk or get support.
  • Words Matter – Think carefully about the language you will use as a family to talk about what has happened be straight and direct with children.
  • Show Emotion – It is ok to show children that you are upset; it is through this that they will learn that it is ok to express their own sadness.

Children may show their emotions in ways that seem strange to us. They may seem to ignore what has happened, but then have brief intense times of grief which then pass quickly; they may do this to see what reaction they get for others to check its ok to show feelings.

Signs that your child may be experiencing grief are:

  • Frequent unexplained mood swings

  • A change in appetite

  • Not sleeping, either struggling to go to sleep or unexpected waking in the night

  • Tiredness or lethargy

  • Regressive behaviour

  • Saying they feel unwell, especially with tummy aches

  • Sudden clinginess or questioning if you’ll return

  • Withdrawn from friends

  • Worried about losing someone they love

What you can do to support your child:

  • Listen to and validate their feelings

  • Encourage them to keep up with hobbies or activities

  • Talk about the person who has died and share happy memories together

  • Encourage ways to express their feelings

  • Know that it is OK not to have all the answers

  • Spend quality time with your child doing things that they enjoy

  • Reassure them that you love them

If you or your family need help in dealing with grief then please get in touch. All of our coaches are specifically trained to help children express and process grief as well as being trauma-informed.