|Ages 0-3||Ages 3-5||Ages 5-8||Ages 9-12||Ages 13-18|
|Understanding of death||Infants as young as 4 mo. recognize emotional expressions in others and can feel their parents’ grief.||Don’t understand that death is permanent and irreversible. Prone to “magical thinking”.||Begin to understand that death is permanent, but they struggle to understand the “how”.||Death is permanent and happens to everyone.|
May have morbid curiosity, or fears about others dying.
|Teens’ understanding of and response to death are more similar to an adult’s than to children.|
|Grief manifestation||Sleep disturbances, explosive emotions, or regressive behavior.||Crying, confusion, and regression.||May express anger toward the pet, situation, or even the vet. May ask many questions about the mechanics of death or body care.||May struggle to express their grief and try to keep their feelings hidden.||May try to avoid talking about grief, leading parents to think grief is not impacting them. Research shows that teens often have more intense grief than other age groups.|
|How adults can help||Parents can use soft, reassuring voices and movements to ensure the child feels secure.||Give clear and simple answers to questions, read from books about loss, create a secure environment, and encourage physical expressions such as drawing and playing.||Answer questions directly, using the correct language, and let them know it’s okay to feel the emotions they’re feeling. Encourage play, drawing, and stories to express grief.||Parents should facilitate honest conversations, role model talking about grief, and ask children questions about their grief.||Encourage open discussions, create opportunities to memorialize and express grief in non-verbal ways, and encourage teens to play an active role in the family’s grief process.|