Grief in childhood

Many children experience loss of a loved one during early childhood. Later in childhood, they can find they can’t consciously remember their loved one, which complicates their grief process.

As they grow older, for each new stage of development, children may need to reprocess their grief, and this continues into adulthood.  Because they “can’t remember”, they do not escape the grieving that adults do, they just have to go through it as their development and environment enables them.  They can't be spared grief because they are too young to understand the full implications of the loss at that time - they just do it later, when they come to understand.  Or, they don't do it at all.

When they can't consciously remember, children, and the adults they become, remember grief in their body, and in their unconscious.  It might show itself in physical ailments and emotional, cognitive and behavioural intensities. And it might seem unrelated to their loss.  

Grieving children can be supported through a secure relationship with a trusted adult.  Sometimes families seek the support of a professional such a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, who is trained to help them.  Most children who suffer a significant bereavement do well if they see their therapist into and beyond adolescence.


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