Younger Children and Loss

I won’t delve into the reality of many adults having their own anxieties about death which can hinder their ability to help children deal with death and loss.  Cartoons tell it all, don’t they?

I am going to briefly touch base from a generalized perspective on grief and loss related to children approximately ages 2 to 5.  Please be aware of the fact younger children are grouped into developmental segments with loose boundaries; developments in age, maturity and understanding of death are different for every child.

Some points to consider when dealing with younger children are;

  • The child may be limited in their ability to tell you how they feel.
  • The child may not be able to express the pain of their loss in what you may see as an appropriate manner.
  • Many children grow to understand their loved one (perhaps a parent) is in heaven and watching over them as a protector.
  • The reality of a child’s life prior to the death and their past experiences with death will influence how they handle subsequent deaths.
  • The child does not differentiate between thoughts and deeds; the child may think what they did caused the death.
  • The child cannot comprehend the irreversibility of death, thinking death is temporary and the person will be okay soon (even if they attended the funeral).
  • The child may not understand the concept of death and the body no longer functioning.
  • Very young children may not understand death but know what the absence of a loved one feels like and responds accordingly.

Death and loss for children can profoundly affect their life as they grow and mature; keeping the doors of communication open is more important than you can imagine.

In all areas of grief and loss there is need for more research and professional understanding.  Do children and adults grieve differently?  Does a lack of intellectual understanding prevent someone from grieving?  In a professional sense the term grieving may imply a specific understanding of death but does the emotional, heartfelt absence of a loved one extend beyond age?

“If you are old enough to love you are old enough to feel the loss of that love!”

As always I provide information to consider

All my best,

Barbara Saunders


“Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield /”