Understaning Death and Grief - TeachersAndFamilies

Death and Grief

From the National Association
of School Psychologists



Both children and adults are affected by a death of a family member, friend, neighbor, even a pet. The death of a family member or fellow student can be especially traumatic for children and adolescents. The way in which caring adults handle the situation can help shape the immediate and longer-term grieving process for children and their families. Children, in particular, need the love and support of their parents and teachers in order to cope with their loss and reach constructive grief resolution.

Expressions of Grief
Talking to children about death must be geared to their developmental level and their capacity to understand the related facts of the situation. Children will also be aware of the reactions of significant adults as they interpret and react to information about death and tragedy. The range of reactions that children display in response to the death of significant others may include:

· Emotional shock and, at times, an apparent lack of feelings, which serves to help the child detach from the pain of the moment;

· Regressive (immature) behaviors, such as needing to be rocked or held, difficulty separating from parents or significant others, needing to sleep in their parent's bed or an apparent difficulty completing tasks well within the child's ability level;

· Explosive emotions and acting out behavior that reflect the child's internal feelings of anger, terror, frustration and helplessness. Acting out may reflect insecurity and a way to seek control over a situation for which they have little or no control;

· Asking the same questions over and over, not because they do not understand the facts, but rather because the information is so hard to believe or accept. Repeated questions can help listeners determine if the child is responding to misinformation or the real trauma of the event.



Parenting Start

Adapted from NASP Web site materials.
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