Death and Dying

By: LifeSpring Behavioral Health | Published 11/28/2023


Though death and dying are often seen as topics that aren’t fun to discuss or ponder, they are  obviously normal parts of the human experience. Therefore, these are topics that need to be  discussed openly and honestly.  

The reality is that children will experience the death of a loved one (family member or friend) in  their life. It’s also estimated that 1 out of 14 children will experience the death of a parent. 

Before discussing death and dying, It’s important to identify the different terms associated with  death and dying: 

Bereavement - objective experience of losing someone by death
Grief - subjective experience of losing someone by death
Mourning - process of dealing with grief.  

While grief reactions vary widely among bereaved youth, here are some possible signs:  

-Fluctuation in emotions (confusion, sadness, worry, anger, increased anxiety, mood changes),  -Change in behavior (acting out, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, decrease in academic  performance).  

These signs and symptoms are normal reactions to grief and most children return to baseline  after a period of time. While normative grief symptoms gradually start to lessen over time,  complicated or prolonged grief is persistent and intense, causing extreme distress and  impairment in daily functioning. Most bereaved children will not require intervention for their  grief, and most families will not seek formal therapy. How a child experiences, understands,  and copes with the loss of a loved one is related to their developmental stage, previous  experience with loss, individual temperament, family factors, religion, and culture.  

What are ways in which we can support our kids in the grief process: 

-Allow children to speak openly and ask questions about their loss -Provide them with age-appropriate psychoeducation which means using appropriate language  such as “death” and “dying” rather than “passed on” or “is sleeping”  

-Facilitate a consistent routine 

-Encourage continuing bonds with their loved one.

For children whose grief is complicated by trauma the following therapies can be helpful:  Trauma Informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TFCBT), EMDR, Trauma and Grief Component  Therapy for Adolescents (TGCT-A), and group programs like Grief Recovery. 


Chad Anderson, LPC
LifeSpring Behavioral

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