Age-related Responses

The following information is taken from an educational insert by SickKids NICU Bereavement Program that Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital gave us.  The source is listed as “After a child dies; helping the siblings” by B. Davies, 2001.

Children will all react differently, so be sensitive to your child’s specific needs.  Here are some likely possible responses that you may see.

Ages 2-5

* Clingy and fearful if you try to go away or have them try new activity

* Repetitive, especially with questions such as, “What does ‘dead’ mean?”

* Fearful that they caused Little One’s death

* Re-playing events in their playtime, trying to express their thoughts and feelings (this is very therapeutic)

Ages 6-9

* Fearful of ‘monsters,’ ‘ghosts,’ or the ‘bogeyman’ coming to take them, you, or their siblings away

* Act silly or laugh or suddenly become very quiet when death is discussed

* Violent in play

Ages 9-12

* Self-conscious about expressing their feelings and about their behavior

* Ask for guidance about how to react or what to say

* Judgmental of their own behavior and other’s

Ages 12-15

* Extreme swings in emotions

* Embarrassment to show emotions in front of peers

* Dependent on peers for “normalcy”

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