For most children, death is a new experience. And like all new experiences, the unknown can be confusing and frightening. Most children do not know what to expect following the loss of a family member or friend. Young children may not understand what death really means and may be confused or even frightened by the reactions of other family members. In the case of traumatic death, the confusion and fear is even greater.

For adults, death is more familiar and the grieving process is something many adults know first hand. Most adults have experienced the range of feelings that often come with traumatic loss – anger, confusion and sadness, and have learned ways to cope with loss. This may not be the case for children, particularly young children.

At the same time, children will seek answers and comfort from their caregivers and other adults in their lives. Yet in the face of traumatic death, adults often feel helpless in this role. While adults can not have answers to all the questions that children may have about death, they can help children better understand the grieving process.

The Dougy Center

Support, resources, and connection before and after a death

Visit Website

National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement

Dedicated to helping schools support their students through crisis and loss. This site also includes resources for supporting the continued impact of the COVID-19 crisis on students and families.

Visit Website
thumbnail of grief-teacher-what-can-i-do

Grief & Loss: What can I do?

Download PDF
thumbnail of grief-issues-at-school

Grief Issues at School

Common Signs of Grief in Children and Adolescents and ways to help.

Download PDF

My Grief Rights: Ten Healing Rights for Grieving Children

By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. Someone you love has died. You are probably having many hurtful and scary thoughts and feelings right now. Together those thoughts and feelings are called grief, which is a normal (though really difficult) thing everyone goes through after someone they love has died.

Download PDF
thumbnail of developmental-responses-tips

Grief Responses by Developmental Age

Developmental Ages and Possible Reactions to Death

Download PDF
thumbnail of cultural-indicators

Grief and Loss Across Cultures

To be “culturally competent” is to be respectful of differences among people and to recognize the significance of cultural-based practices, values, beliefs, expectations, and experiences of each person. While it is important to understand cultural difference, remember that even within a culture, individuals will respond uniquely to grief and loss.

Download PDF

Grief v. Trauma: How Trauma Can Affect the Grieving Process