At this stage, children understand that death is permanent. However, they may think they caused it, or that it’s a punishment for something they did. They are concerned about what will happen to them if their other parent dies and are often interested in the biology of death. Grief can show itself as regressive behaviour, hiding feelings, withdrawal, nightmares or sleep disturbances, difficulties concentrating, changes at school and being very protective of surviving loved ones.
How to Help
Let them regress and offer hugs and physical contact. Answer their questions truthfully, in an age-appropriate way. Give them a safe space to talk about their feelings and encourage drawing, playing, art, dance, sports or other healthy physical or creative outlets. Let them choose how involved they will be in mourning rituals and find external support for them if needed. Such supports could include children’s grief groups such as Gilda’s Club or family grief groups offered at Dr. Jay’s Children’s Grief Centre.