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Children and grief

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Children react differently than adults when dealing with the death of a loved one. To console your own child, learn the normal responses to grief that children have and the signs when your child is not coping well with grief.

How Children Think About Death Depends On How Old They Are

It helps to understand how children think before talking to them about death. This is because you must speak to them on the subject at their own level.

What to Expect

It is normal to grieve for the death of a close family member or friend. Expect your child to show a range of emotions and behaviors that can arise at unexpected times, such as:

What You Can Do

Keep the following in mind:

When to Call the Doctor

Ask your child's health care provider for help if you are worried about your child. Children may be having real problems with grief if they are:


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Grief and children. Updated July 2018. Accessed August 7, 2020.

McCabe ME, Serwint JR. Loss, separation, and bereavement. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.


Review Date: 5/27/2020  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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