If you are old enough to love, you are old enough to grieve.”
- Alan Wolfelt
Just like adults, children will experience a number of feelings and emotions related to a loss. But developmentally, children and adults manifest their grief differently. For example, parents may become alarmed if they see their child playing and laughing as if nothing has happened, but children are more able to turn their feelings of grief “on” and “off” than adults are. Children often utilize play as a method of expressing their grief.
Sometimes children will try to protect the adults in their lives by not wanting to ask them too many questions or talk too much about the loss. They might worry about upsetting others by asking questions or by verbalizing their feelings. But exploring the emotions of grief is important for children, just as it is for adults. That is why children can frequently benefit by talking to a therapist outside the family that they can comfortably ask questions of and share their feelings with. Angela Hospice’s children’s grief counselor may be of benefit at this time.
It is also not uncommon for children to regress developmentally following the death. For example, a child that is potty-trained may begin to have more accidents; or a child that has routinely been independent may need to cling more tightly to a parent during this time. Grades in school may go down and the child may display more acting-out behavior.
Providing structure and following daily routines is often very helpful for the child. Children need permission from the important adults in their lives to grieve at their own pace.