Grade School Aged Children with Grief and Loss


Today I am going to focus on children aged 7 to 11; keep in mind the age grouping is approximate due to children developing and maturing at different rates.

Some of the information being pointed out about grief and loss experiences is meant to be a “heads up” not as an overall expectation for all children.


A generalized list of a child’s ability to cope with death;

  • Understand that we will all die, but do not have a concept of their own death
  • Understand that death is final
  • Limited understanding of the future as a concept
  • Generally believe death happens to older or sick people
  • Have a limited capacity to tolerate emotional pain
  • Are sensitive about being different from their friends
  • Express feelings in play and creativity with art
  • May want to avoid negative reminders of the deceased person and prefer to remember the happier times

Children reflect the cultural beliefs of their family when dealing with grief.  .

After a loss, a child may take a long time to gradually process what has happened in their life.  Problematic or being stuck is displayed when grief affects the child’s ability to play and interact with others; when their psychological, emotional and physical development appears hindered by grief reactions; then professional help may be needed.

As with adults, children can have feelings of guilt, denial, anxiety, anger, sadness, and stress related physical symptoms, to name a few. 

Pay close attention to, or an exaggeration of;

  • Thoughts of suicide being displayed
  • Physical symptoms resulting from strong emotional reactions (psychosomatic)
  • Schoolwork concerns etc.
  • Sleep problems
  • Social interactions declining/isolation
  • Regressive behaviour
  • Prior health concerns
  • Compounded losses
  • Depression

Wow!  You can help a child with grief reactions by;

  • Sharing your grief story
  • Respecting a child’s need to grieve differently
  • Being open to hearing a child talk about the deceased
  • Being age appropriate with explanations
  • Being accepting of a child’s story
  • Crying and being sad with the child
  • Giving permission to “FEEL” emotions

Most of all show LOVE and express your caring for the child.

All my best

            Barbara Saunders


Image courtesy of Vlado /