How do Children Cope with Loss at Different Ages?

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, March 5, 2018

Everyone handles the concept of death differently; especially children. At different ages, children may experience loss in different ways, as they develop a deeper understanding of death and they mature emotionally. At every level of childhood development, death can be a hard concept to grasp, so it is important to work with your child to help them through it. The most important thing is that no 2 people, not even twins, will process grief in the same way, so it helps to work with them as well as you can. It is important to let them talk out their emotions, and to let them ask questions. Whether it is a family member or a pet who has passed, a child will not always be able to fully comprehend all of their emotions.


Babies and infants will have little to no understanding of loss, but the unexpected changes in their routine due to the loss can make them irritable and cranky. The lack of attention they may experience during the mourning period may also make them act out.


At this age, young children have a base understanding of death, but most of it comes from cartoons. Preschoolers often think of death as something reversible or temporary. It is important to be honest with them about the permanence of death. This is also the age that children will ask “why?” to everything. Be as open with your children about death as you feel is right, but let them ask questions. 


For kids in elementary school, death is often felt as a more personified concept. They will often feel that the loss is  “not fair,” and may not fully grasp the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s passing. Denial and Anger are the biggest stages of grief for children at this age. 

Middle Schoolers

By this age, most children will understand the concept of death, and will either hope or assume that it will not occur for them until they are very old. They will often be engaged in learning the details of why someone died. While they will feel loss, children at this age are often intrigued by the details surrounding the death. They may ask to touch the body as well. At this age, children may begin to form their own beliefs and personal philosophies about life. The death of a close friend or relative may make them question their beliefs.

High Schoolers

Most adolescents will experience very strong emotions, especially about death. But, often, they do not have the experience of an adult to fully grasp the severity of it all. Some teenagers may experience a deep depression. Sometimes, a teenager may act out by “taunting” death. They may act recklessly when driving; or experiment with drugs and alcohol. Be stern with discipline in these cases, as it helps for an adolescent to experience some sort of structure when they feel like their whole world is changing. It is important that you help them to talk out their emotions. It may be helpful to provide them with a more safe or constructive way for them to release their pent up emotions. 
For almost 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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