CHILDREN & TEENS SUFFERING LOSS
Road Trauma Team
Children will grieve if someone they love dies. It is important that they are helped
through the various stages of grief and they will need adult support to do this.
Children, like adults, differ widely in their reactions to death. It is best, if possible, to bring
the news of the death to them individually. This makes it possible to choose the best
words for each child. It may help those who care for children to know how they view
death, and how this varies with the age of the child..
Adolescents are moving towards independence. They are much concerned with status
and peer pressure. They are still immature, socially and emotionally. Adolescence can
be stormy, but it is not like that with everyone.
Young teenagers often reject their parents' standards.
Twelve and thirteen year olds may not get on well with their parents because they are
moving towards being independent. Therefore, when death comes to a parent, there
may be strong feelings of guilt.
A teenager aged 14 to 16 is less self-centred and may well start thinking about their own
death when faced with the death of another.
Death is unusual, sudden and violent to adolescents. It is something they simply do not
want to think about. Most teenagers feel insecure. Moving fast and keeping the music
loud can be an escape from having to face the fears.
When they have to cope with the loss of an important relationship, this may cause them
great fear, guilt, anxiety and anger.
They feel that no one has felt the deep and powerful feelings they now feel. No one has
ever loved as they love or grieved as they grieve. The older adolescent will also be upset
because others are grieving, so the pain is doubled.
These should be avoided:
"Your daddy has gone away for a very long time" Without further explanation,
children will just think they have been deserted.
"Your mummy is now in heaven" seems impossible for a young child when they know
that the mother is buried in the cemetery.
"It is God's will" can cause children to be extremely angry at God and to question his
goodness and love just at the time when they need all the support they can get
"Granddad died because he got sick" seems like an acceptable explanation on the
surface, and yet without further explanation, children may assume that everyone who
gets sick dies.
"To die is to go to sleep" is easy to say to children. A clear distinction should be made
between sleep and death
Sending children off to be with other relatives or friends when a person dies makes it
more difficult. It is best if they know what is going on. Parents should not prevent
children from learning that they can cope with such an experience.