Each year thousands of children experience the death of someone they love. When a parent, sibling, friend or relative dies, children feel the overwhelming loss of someone who helped shape their fragile self-identities. And these feelings about death become a part of their lives forever.
Caring adults, whether parents, teachers, counselors or friends, can help children during this time. If adults are open, honest and loving, experiencing the loss of someone loved can be a chance for young people to learn about both the joy and pain that comes from caring deeply for others.
Some possible behaviors children might express during this time are occasional regressive behavior, mood swings, hides feelings, acts like the death never happened, aggressive behavior, withdrawn, nightmares or trouble sleeping, concentration difficulties, changes in grades, impulse or high risk behaviors, change in peer groups, fighting, screaming or arguing and changes in eating patterns.
Ways adults can help are offer comfort, expect and accept mood swings, allow hidden feelings unless there is a risk of harm, encourage expression of feelings through writing, art, music, sport, etc., support relationships with other understanding adults, be available to listen and talk, answer questions truthfully, share your grief, watch for high risk behaviors and encourage peer support.