There is no right or wrong way to react to a loss. No two individuals will react in exactly the same way. Grief reactions among children and youth are influenced by their developmental level, personal characteristics, mental health, family and cultural influences, and previous exposure to crisis, death, and loss. However, there are some general trends that can help adults understand typical and atypical reactions of bereaved children. Sadness, confusion, and anxiety are among the most common grief responses and are likely to occur for children of all ages. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should also understand how their own grief reactions and responses to a loss may impact the experience of a child.
Grief does not follow a specified pattern. An individual may experience any of the following, in varying order and intensity:
Keep in mind that groups, particularly youth, can experience collective or even vicarious grief. Even if they didn’t personally know the deceased, students may feel grief, anxiety, or stress because they see classmates who have been directly affected by a loss.
Adults should be particularly alert to any of the following as indicators that a trained mental health professional should be consulted: