When a child needs help

Normal reactions of grief - variable depending on age, developmental level, relationship to deceased, coping skills, personality, other stresses, available support, etc.:

  • Sadness, depression
  • Anger
  • Anxiety - fears, worries
  • Shame
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rebellious, aggressive behavior
  • Impulsive
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Regression & clingy behavior
  • Decrease in self-esteem
  • Change in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Physical complaints - headaches, stomachaches
  • Withdrawal from friends and/or activities
  • Drop in school performance
  • Trying to be perfect
  • Wishing to be with the deceased

Most children grieve intermittently - periods of grief alternate with times that they seem quite “normal” and happy. If changes are observed that are consistent and prolonged, it would be advisable to seek outside help. Other indicators of the need for additional support:

  • Any change that interferes with the child's ability to function at school or home
  • Self destructive behavior or talking about wanting to die

When the death was violent, such as a suicide or homicide, family members often need additional support because of the complicated issues involved. Support groups can be helpful for children and teens experiencing both normal and complicated grief.

  • Peer support groups decrease isolation
  • Promote healthy coping skills
  • Provide a safe place to express feelings and share memories