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Grieving: What’s Normal & When to Worry

Children who lose interest in daily activities, have trouble sleeping or eating, withdraw from friends or activities, refuse to go to school or have severe difficulty in school, fear being alone, seem obsessed with talking about death, or talk about wishing to join the deceased may need professional help. Your child's pediatrician or school counselor can provide you with resources for helping your child cope with loss. A mental health professional can help your child accept the death and guide your family through the mourning process.

Every Child Grieves Differently

Although there are common reactions to death, parents should remember that each child will grieve differently. Some might be quietly sad, while others might act out in anger. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; it is a process that unfolds over time and varies from person to person. Children may continue to process the death of a loved one over many years; with each new developmental stage comes a new way of understanding and processing what happened.

It Takes Time        

Children grieve in stages much as adults do. We can't push children into coming to terms with their feelings; it takes time. The most important factor is that they have you as a sounding board to meet them at their comfort level. Sometimes a hug and a simple statement like, "I miss her too," gives children the opportunity to share their feelings or at least know that all of their confusing emotions are acceptable.

Additional Information:

Elyse C. Salek, MEd and Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP
Last Updated
Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2015 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, and Martha M. Jablow)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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