SIDS Program Manual SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide Trainer's Guide

Bereavement Support Services

Children's Grief

Children's Grief

Children may also feel that something they thought or did contributed to the death. It is not uncommon for children to fear others dying. While some children may want to participate in memorial services, others may be fearful of the funeral services. If children do not participate in the funeral services, they can say goodbye in other ways. Creation of mementos of the sibling can be a helpful memorial for children.

Information provided to children and adolescents should be provided in many formats including written materials, audiovisual materials, group meetings and one-on-one counseling. The broader community of teachers, parents, peers and coaches needs information about children and grief and trauma. It is useful for siblings to be able to talk or meet with other children who have experienced a similar loss.

Research shows that surviving siblings report feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression and neglect. Services to children should:

  • Validate the normalcy of their feeling and reactions. Neighbors, teachers, peers and community may not validate a child’s grief.
  • Acknowledge the circumstances of the death. Waking up to a parent finding a sibling dead, witnessing first responders arriving and the involvement of law enforcement may all increase a child’s stress or trauma.
  • Take into account their developmental age and understanding of death.

Staff should facilitate communication between parents and child. Parents may be so preoccupied with the death that they are unavailable to the child. How parents process the loss has an impact on how the child processes the loss.

Parents and caregivers need to be alert for danger signs from a child including sleep difficulties, persistent anxiety, frequent emotional outburst, changes in school performance, poor grades, social withdrawal, depression, not eating and obsessive thoughts about the infant or child.

In recognition of the special bereavement needs of children and teenagers, a number of programs have developed to support bereaved children across the nation. These programs may provide counseling and peer support groups for children and resources to the broader community. The losses children and teens may experience include death and divorce. There have also been online bereavement support programs developed for children. These programs provide excellent resources for children as well as parents and caretakers.