Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Linda Goldman, a fellow in thanatology and the author of several books focusing on grief. Specializing in grieving children, Goldman has received an award from the Association from Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) for her incredible research and passion in the field. What are the most common signs of grieving children? Children can grieve a little differently than adults, but all kids need to know what’s common. Adults need to know this, too! Addressing anxiety is critical.
Children will tell their story over and over again. They have an ongoing relationship with the person they love. Children are more likely to pick up on signs, such as a breeze or butterfly. Sometimes grieving kids have physical symptoms. They can regress, get clingy, and worry excessively. Stomach aches and headaches are normal. Failing in school can happen, or behavioral issues can pop up. Any changes can be a sign of grief.
Signs of Grief
Children can become the class clown, class bully, or suddenly act shy. The ages between two and seven are more likely to tap into magical thinking. This is the special age where children can toe the line between the real world and fantasy. They may think death is reversible—it can be confusing that, when they write a letter to a grandfather who just died, no letter will come back.
Kids in this age range are also quick to blame themselves. They can come up with all kinds of reasons why they may be to blame. Releasing them of magical thinking can help, but it must be done carefully. Having a child work with a professional is a great help, since the child hasn’t already formed ideas and personal bonds with these adults.