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How kids grieve

Andrea Warnick (RN, MA, Educational consultant and Grief Counsellor), discusses differences in the way children and adults grieve. Transcripts parts were taken by interview provided to the Canadian Virtual Hospice, and was released by Creative Commons license.

One of the things that it’s important to teach children is that somebody can be grieving, they can have a lot of sad feelings, lonely feelings inside and they may look on the outside just like you or me. They may look like they’re doing just fine. That one throws kids a lot, because they think that if somebody’s grieving they’re going to look really sad.

That’s where it comes back to providing education about grief. It’s really like emotional literacy for children. Letting them know that people can be feeling all kinds of different things inside and you’re not necessarily going to see it on the outside.

People can also be grieving and still have fun, and still embrace life and enjoy life. It’s important for kids to understand that as well.

I think one of the ways that kids grief it’s really unique from the way adults grieve, is that it’s like “puddle jumping”. As if they jump into it, and in the midst of that, the puddle feels like an ocean and huge. And then, five minutes later they will jump right out and enjoy life and have a great time.

Children really do that balancing of deep sorrow and deep joy of living at the same time. It’s very different from the way parents grieve. Children really grieve in chunks.

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