Children Grieve Differently Than Adults

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.


Linda Goldman

More Articles Written by Linda

Linda Goldman is a Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT) with an MS degree in counseling and Master's Equivalency in early childhood education. Linda is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NBCC). Linda Goldman is the author of Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children (First edition, 1994/ Second edition 2000) Taylor and Francis Publishers. Her second book is Breaking the Silence: a Guide to Help Children with Complicated Grief (First edition, 1996/Second edition 2002). Her other books include Bart Speaks Out: An Interactive Storybook for Young Children On Suicide (1998) WPS publishers, a Phi Delta Kappan International fastback, Helping the Grieving Child in the School (2000), and a Chinese Edition of Breaking the Silence: A Guide to Help Children With Complicated Grief (2001), the Japanese Edition of Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children (in press 2005), and "Raising Our Children to Be Resilient: A Guide for Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today’s World (2005)" and a children’s book Children Also Grieve (2005), Chinese translation of Children Also Grieve (2007) and Coming Out, Coming In: Nurturing the Well Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society (2008). She has also authored contributing chapters in resources including Loss of the Assumptive World (2002), Annual Death, Dying, and Bereavement (2001-2007), Family Counseling and Therapy Techniques (1998), and The School Services Sourcebook: A Guide for School-Based Professionals (2006). She is currently writing two books to be included in a series, Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death (in-press 2009) and Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Sex (in-press 2009). Listen to Linda on Open to Hope Radio

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