Grief in Children
Children of different ages will react differently to grief. A childs understanding of death is very different to that of an adult and in children that understanding comes gradually...
They do not understand or recognise death, but they will certainly know feelings of loss and separation.
2 - 3 year olds
This age group will not have an understanding of death, but they may believe that your child is just sleeping and as such should be told that they have died and they will not be returning.
4 - 6 year olds
They have more of an understanding of death but will not know how it will affect them. They may believe that death is contagious and fear the death of others or even themselves. They should be comforted and assured that this is highly unlikely. They may have problems controlling their bladder or bowel or eating and sleeping problems may occur. It is best to talk to your child allowing them to express their feelings and fears.
7 - 9 year olds
This group do have a fairly good understanding with death, they know that it is final, but they may also become curious and ask questions. This age group may experience problems at school; behavioural issues or aggression, or they may become withdrawn or clingy. You should be aware that these problems may not occur immediately but could in the months following.
At this age the understanding is similar to an adults, although they may not deal with the death or their emotions as well; appearing fine on the surface but inside feeling very emotional and frightened.