Child Grief


Everychild is distinct and reacts to grief in different ways. Many parentsfind it challenging to explain the grief concepts to their children.According to Kail and Cavanaugh (2013), grief is a stubborn emotionthat many children lack effective means of controlling it. Children’sreaction to lose of a loved one depends on their age. The objectiveof this matrix is analyzing the diverse approaches that childrenreact to grief and effective counselling assistance professionals canrender to such children.

Age (years)

Death concept

Grief response

Suitable counselling

Infancy to age 2

Infants cannot grasp abstract ideas such as death. However, children know when an important person dies as their conscious is based on present issues that could be happening. Their reaction towards the loss of a significant person is determined by the mood of adults in an environment, as well as interruption of their care schedule and routine. Drastic changes cause varied discomforts.

Infants become anxious and begin searching for the departed person. Some of the major reactions include changed eating habits, endless crying, protest and irritability, weight loss, altered sleeping patterns and reduced activity (Howarth, 2011).

Allowing children to ask questions as well as keeping them engaged in diverse, interesting activities to divert their attention from the loss (Wolfet, 2013).

Preschool Age (2-4)

The age group thinks the death loss is temporary. They will occasionally inquire when their mother or father will be back from other adults (Howarth, 2011).

Preschool children suffer from intermittent, but intense grief. The pain is intense because they are normally in the early stages of developing trust. Sometimes they can cry continuously if they realize the adults around them are grieving (Worden, 2009). The wailing is supposed to attract the adults’ attention. Other typical grief response behaviors include nightmares, confusion, regressive behaviors, night agitation, separation from others, sucking thumb and temper outbursts (Howarth, 2011).

Counselor should allow the child to ask questions and emphasize on death reality. Allowing preschool age to ask questions can also assist the age group to develop better school concepts (Wolfet, 2013).

Early Childhood (4-7)

The age group assumes death is a reversible and impermanent jest. They often take death personally, and they sometimes think they could have prevented the death occurrence if they could have done something. Through doing something. In some cases, they can blame shift events for things that are not connected to the death such as someone’s past utterances (Worden, 2009).

They are curious about understanding the death ideology. They commonly act out the event instead of verbalizing it. Victims also suffer from conditions such as confusion, sadness, altered eating and sleeping habits and intense anger (Wolfet, 2013).

Counselor should encourage children to share out their feelings, as well as train them on anger management schemes (Worden, 2009).

Middle Years (7-10)

The age group is curious about death as they ask numerous questions. The individuals are uncertain whether whether death is final or reversible. They ask several questions concerning death such as cremation and burial. Some believe their effort can help them avoid death as it mainly targets senior citizens and the sick. In some cases, the death can make the age group anxious because they are incapable of understanding the way death can affect them (Mitchell et al., 2012).

Middle year children’s grief response depends on the adults’ reaction towards the situation. They can develop an intense fear towards death as they may fear that either their loved ones or they might soon die. As a result, the children refrain from activities that may cause physical injury and death. Some individuals may lose concentration at school (Wolfet, 2013). Others develop resistance towards the negative influence of death through adopting an indifferent attitude. Additional symptoms that different children in the age group develop as response to grief and bereavement include depression, shock, altered sleeping and eating patterns, regression and denial of the situation (Mitchell et al., 2012).

A counselor should assist children in the age group accept that a significant person in their life has departed forever. However, the departure should not worry them because they are safe from death. Besides, the counselor can help the children appreciate that the bad feelings they have is okay, as it is good to mourn the significant other, but the feeling will soon disappear (Worden, 2009).

Pre-Adolescent (10-12)

Pre-adolescents gradually increase trust towards their peers while minimizing parental control. Since they are quite mature, they can comprehend both emotional and biological death concepts. This implies that they have higher understanding of the dead person than they can understand their personal feelings (Wolfet, 2013).

Boys in this age group conceal weakness because they believe that expressing their sadness is a sign of weakness. This makes them appear distant and unemotional – especially boys. Other response patterns include peer isolation, unresponsiveness towards education, altered eating and sleeping patterns, moodiness, and physical complaints (Mitchell et al., 2012).

A counselor should focus on assisting pre-adolescents in accepting the death outcome. This would help the age group to accept reality, mourn the significant other and recover from grief quickly (Worden, 2009).


Kail,R. V., &amp Cavanaugh, J. (2013). HumanDevelopment: A Life-Span View (6th ed).Belmont: Cengage Learning/Wadsworth.

Howarth,R.A. (2011). Concepts and controversies in in grief and loss. Journalof mental health counselling,33(1), 4-10.

Mitchell,L.M., Stephenson, P.H., Cadell, S., Macdonald, M.E. (2012). Death andgrief on-line: Virtual memorialization and changing concepts ofchildhood death and parental bereavement on the Internet. HealthSociology Review:Vol. 21, Culture, Death and Dying with Dignity, pp. 413-431. doi:10.5172/hesr.2012.21.4.413

Wolfet,A. (2013). Helpingchildren cope with grief.Routledge

Worden,J. W. (2009). Griefcounseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental healthpractitioner.New York, NY: Springer Pub. Co.