Research tells us that children and teens grieve differently than adults—in different ways and over different time periods. It may appear as though they have little or no emotion over the death. Physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches may be more prevalent than tears or anger.
It is normal for a child to show their grief off-and-on, over a period of many years, as they reach new developmental stages or important milestones, such as first dates, graduations, proms, and birthdays. These symptoms of childhood grief can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted by caring adults.
Just as each young person is unique, so is their grief experience. However, there are certain reactions and behaviors that are often seen in grieving youth.
Signs and symptoms of grief
You may notice some of these signs and symptoms:
- Physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches
- Emotional outbursts or lack of emotions around the death
- Separation anxiety—feeling protective of parent & family members, worrying about the safety of parent and loved ones
- Sense of responsibility for the death-—thinks that in some way he or she caused the death
- A change in behavior at school—falling grades, hard time concentrating or paying attention, seems to “daydream” more
- Other changes in behavior—sleep habits, appetite, acting younger or acting overly responsible for age
- Social withdrawal—loss of interest in friends and usual activities, pushing away old friends
- Worrying about another death occurring or worrying about their own death
We have other information geared toward helping children in grief. If you have any concerns about how your child is coping with a death, contact Fairview's Youth Grief Services. We are here to help you and your children.