Children’s Grief Awareness Month: “It’s OK to Not Be OK”

Many children live with loss every day. In our culture, we often downplay or dismiss grieving children. We may not take the time to truly listen to the children around us and understand their emotions. As a result, many children grieve in silence or act out because of what they are feeling. 

November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month, dedicated to addressing the unique needs of grieving children and youth. As we approach the holiday season, Children’s Grief Awareness Month arrives at a time when many bereaved children and families are facing the holidays without their loved ones. 

Children’s Grief Awareness Day

On November 18, Children’s Grief Awareness Day serves as a time to come together, celebrate loved ones and recognize childhood bereavement. This year’s theme is: “It’s OK to not be OK.” Though we can’t always see it on the outside, a child’s inner turmoil after losing a loved one can be intense and isolating. 

Children’s Grief Awareness Day shows kids that they aren’t alone in their experience. It’s OK for children to feel what they feel and share those feelings with others. The biggest thing the adults in their lives can do is be there and listen. 

How Many Children Are Grieving? 

Judi’s House and the New York Life Foundation’s Childhood Bereavement Estimation Models show that 1 in 12 children in Missouri experiences the death of a parent or sibling by age 18, which is approximately 119,000 children. 

The number of bereaved youth in Missouri doubles by age 25. About 287,000 youth experience the death of a parent or sibling by the time they turn 25. 

Childhood grief is much more common than many believe. Support is crucial for the development and mental health of grieving youth. 

A Child’s Awareness of Death

Does your child understand death? Children’s awareness of death changes as they get older. Preschool children may not fully understand the permanence of death. They may believe death to be temporary or reversible. 

Children ages five to ten begin to see death more like adults do. They grasp its permanence but still don’t believe that death could happen to someone they know and love. Around age ten, children become fully aware of death and understand that it is permanent. 

No matter their age, children want to be told the truth about their loved one’s death. Parents should answer their child’s questions as honestly as possible, keeping the child’s age and circumstances surrounding the death in mind. 

If you’re struggling with what to say to a child, we offer advice for talking to children about death in Talking to Children About the Death of A Family Member and Telling Children the Truth About Difficult Deaths.

What Children’s Grief Looks Like

As a parent, you may wonder if your child is reacting normally to loss. Is what they are thinking normal? Is their behavior normal? How does a child’s grief manifest? 

Grief is unique to every individual. Some children may bottle all of their grief inside, while others may express it openly. It’s OK for children to feel scared, angry, hopeful or happy at any point in time. There is no “normal” way to cope after a loss, but many children share common physical and emotional experiences.

The following are typical signs of grief in children

  • - Headaches
  • - Stomach aches
  • - Retelling the story of how the person died
  • - Inability to speak about the person
  • - Trouble sleeping
  • - Wanting to sleep more than usual
  • - Crying
  • - Guilty feelings
  • - Anger 
  • - Confusion
  • - Afraid to be alone
  • - Having dreams about death
  • - Worrying who will die next
  • - Death play (Re-enacting the funeral, etc.)

Some children, especially young children, may not be able to verbalize how they feel. For them, coping may look like continuing on as usual for a while. Other children may work through their feelings by being more physically active. Grieving children may also be irritable and act out at home or school. If people in their life seem to be moving on, children may also be bewildered by other’s actions.

How can you support the children in your life? Bereaved children want what most grieving adults want—someone to really hear them. Children want the adults in their lives to validate their feelings, listen to them and answer their questions honestly. 

Dive deeper with 10 Things Grieving Children Want You to Know.

Participate in Children’s Grief Awareness Day

On Children’s Grief Awareness Day, you can help Lost & Found Grief Center spread awareness about childhood bereavement. 

Chalk Art Contest 

Join Lost & Found in creating expressions of hope in our community by decorating your sidewalk, driveway or parking lot. Lost & Found’s Junior Board is hosting a Chalk Art Contest from November 1 - 14. 

If you’d like to participate, please contact to sign up. Chalk art submissions must be received by November 14. Businesses, individuals and families are encouraged to participate. 

Once you submit your art, visit the Lost & Found Facebook page to vote for your favorite artwork from November 15 - 18. The photos with the most “likes” win!

Additional Ways to Show Support

  • - Share your story. You can help others feel less alone by sharing your grief story with someone in-person or on social media. You can also share a memory of your loved one anonymously on Lost & Found’s virtual Memory Wall
  • - Share information about Lost & Found Grief Center. You can help others learn about our resources by talking about Lost & Found, sharing information from our website or sharing our social media posts. 
  • - Wear blue on November 18. Show your support by wearing blue on Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Ask your company to show up to work in blue, or dress in blue as a family. 
  • - Donate. If you feel inclined, you can show your support for the services Lost & Found Grief Center provides by donating to our grief support groups.
  • - Volunteer. We are always looking for volunteers who are passionate about our mission. Lost & Found volunteers can help set up events, greet children and families before group, assist group coordinators or complete administrative tasks like mailings.

Do you want to learn more about our grief support groups for children? 

Contact Lost & Found Grief Center today. We provide a safe space for children of all ages to express themselves and find hope for the future.  

If you are in crisis, please call your doctor or 911. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

A grieving woman stares out a window at work.

Grief at Work: How Companies Can Support Grieving Employees

As a business leader or supervisor, managing bereavement in the workplace is one of the hardest things you’ll face. Death can impact one person at your company or your entire staff. 

Supporting grieving employees benefits your staff’s long-term health while building stronger company loyalty and relationships. Work is where we spend most of our time. Companies must address grief instead of asking employees to leave it at the door.

Most supervisors want to support grieving co-workers, but they don't know how to respond to grief at work. Often people don't know how to handle grief at all, especially if they've never lost anyone before. 

This article discusses how companies, managers and teams can support grieving co-workers—from condolences to company policies.

Tackle Your Assumptions About Grief 

What do you say to someone who is grieving? I don’t want to say the wrong thing. 

How will my co-worker’s grief affect the work we need to complete? 

I want to help my co-worker, but I don’t want to make them sad at work. 

Most of us know how to celebrate milestones. We’re ready to sing “Happy Birthday” and wish our co-workers “congratulations” on anniversaries, promotions and births. When it comes to grief, it’s a different story. We tend to stay quiet, avert our gazes and assume our colleagues want to be left alone. We try to act like nothing has changed. 

Grief is ubiquitous. We all experience grief at some point in our lives. How can we change how we react to someone’s grief at work? 

Supporting a grieving co-worker starts with two things: not making assumptions about how they feel and changing our expectations. 

Going back to work after the death of a parent, child or friend is not easy. Employers and team members must accept that grieving employees will be less productive and energetic. Managing grief at work takes tremendous effort, and the individual may display a range of emotions. 

Remember to always lead with empathy and listen to the person who is grieving. 

Assumption #1: Work is a Good Distraction

After losing a loved one, some people find focusing on work helpful. Others find returning to work difficult and struggle to be productive or “on” for customers and team members. 

Don’t assume that coming back to work directly after a loss is helpful for everyone. There are many reasons why people return to work soon after losing a loved one. Short bereavement leave, financial needs or a desire to regain some sense of normalcy are all reasons you may see a co-worker back shortly after a loss. 

Insight: Employers and managers can support grieving employees by presenting flexible work options and not overwhelming them with new tasks. 

  1. Ask your employee if they prefer working from home or at the office at this time.
  2. Take tasks that others could complete easily off the employee’s to-do list.
  3. Divide some of the employee’s tasks between willing team members. 

Assumption #2: You Shouldn’t Talk About Grief

People think it’s best to say nothing about the loss when it happens. In many cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Sincere condolences acknowledge what the employee is going through and show that you care. Supervisors and teammates shouldn’t be afraid to check in with the person regularly. 

Insight: A simple “I’m thinking of you” or “how are you feeling?” can help grieving employees feel seen. 

Assumption #3: They Will Feel Better After This Year

There’s a myth that people will feel a bit better each day after a loss. The common saying “time heals all wounds” speaks to this belief. Unfortunately, time doesn’t heal all of our wounds or magically make everything better.

Grief isn’t linear. There’s no progression or endpoint. Grief is never “over” because it’s cyclical. People develop skills to cope with grief over time, but a well-intentioned comment or a milestone in someone’s life can trigger grief from a decades-old loss.

Insight: After the first year, people don’t automatically “feel better,” and employers should keep that in mind. Grief may seem like it’s in the past to people on the outside, but it may feel fresh to the person carrying the weight of it.

Assumption #4: It’s Not a Major Loss 

We can't judge how people feel about the losses in their lives. 

Relationships with cousins, great-grandparents, family friends or old college buddies can greatly impact someone, even if we don't share the same bonds with those people in our lives.

Insight: Some may also assume that a loss isn’t significant if the person is directly back at work. Circumstances, often financial, may require the person to keep working immediately after the loss. The individual may need to pay for the funeral or make up for losing half of their household income after the death of a spouse.   

Company Benefits that Support Grieving Employees

Adding company policies and benefits focused on loss creates a supportive workplace culture. Most companies offer bereavement leave. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 89% of businesses surveyed provided some form of bereavement leave in 2019. 

Workplaces that do not address employee grief could spend up to $75 billion annually in what Option B authors Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant call “grief-related losses” (as quoted in SHRM). Offering benefits, like flex time or remote work, will cost businesses less in the long run. 

Bereavement Leave

Businesses offer bereavement leave for the death of a parent, child, partner or sibling. 

How many days off do you get for a death in the family? Bereavement leave is typically three to five days, though grief experts recommend taking 20 days of leave for close family members. 

Often, bereavement leave is only enough time off for the funeral, not enough time to process the loss. If employees need to take more time off or use vacation hours, companies should be open to letting them do so. 

Supervisors should respect an employee’s time away by not calling, emailing or texting them during their absence. 

Adjusted Schedules & Workload

Employees need time to process their grief and should not be expected to jump back into their role or come to the office every day. 

Flexible hours, shorter work days and work-from-home options give employees the space they need. These options should be included in your company policies and discussed with the employee when they return.

Supervisors should also consider easing the employee’s workload. Taking tasks off their plate can help them feel less overwhelmed. Many tasks can be shared between team members or completed by someone else. 

Employee Assistance Programs 

Support and counseling are crucial to learning to cope with grief. In many cases, company-sponsored employee assistance programs (EAPs) offer free mental health services. Grieving employees can use their EAP to access free counseling at any time. EAP services are often available for the employee’s family members as well. 

While EAP services can help the bereaved, they can also help colleagues learn how to provide support. Many EAPs offer training or workshops on grief and loss. 

Support from Co-Workers and Managers 

Co-workers and managers may not be able to change or add company benefits for the bereaved, but they can offer support in the culture they create around grief. 

Here are a few ways team members can support grieving colleagues: 

  1. Communicate with the individual regularly. Stop by their office to check in throughout the week. 
  2. Don’t stay silent. While the individual may not want to discuss their loss in depth, managers and co-workers must acknowledge that the loss happened.
  3. Offer specific help. Broad offers of support can overwhelm a grieving person. “What can I do for you?” pressures the individual to come up with ways the person could help. Try offering something specific like “I’m bringing you a meal for dinner tomorrow, OK?” Meals, walking the dog or offers to watch the kids go a long way. 
  4. Appoint one person to facilitate help. It’s great when everyone wants to help. Yet, as the grieving individual, it takes effort to field questions and offers. Appointing one person as a liaison between the employee and the rest of the team can alleviate this pressure. After speaking to the grieving person, the appointed co-worker lets others know what they can do to help. 
  5. Open-door policy. You should never push people to talk about their loss or grief. It will take time for the employee to determine what they need at work. Are shorter hours better? Does working from home a few days a week help? Do they need to talk to someone? An open-door policy lets the employee know they can talk to you when they are ready.

When An Employee Passes Away  

Everyone feels the impact when an employee passes away—staff, supervisors, vendors and customers. Communication is crucial when an employee passes away. 

Leadership teams should share a cohesive message across the company. The message should be straightforward and contain as much information as the family of the deceased wishes to share. Leaders should share details about the funeral or memorial service with everyone on staff. If your company has an EAP, leaders should remind employees of the resources available for grief. 

Businesses should decide whether to close for the funeral or remain open. Employees who wish to attend services should be given time to do so. Appointing someone to represent the company at the funeral is also an option if the service is during work hours and you cannot let everyone attend. 

Companies can also host a memorial service to honor the individual and give employees a time and place to say goodbye. 

The Coronavirus and Complicated Grief

COVID-19 has affected millions of people in the United States. As of August 15, 2021, there have been 618,591 deaths from COVID-19. 

Throughout the pandemic, hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed with patients. Due to the nature of the virus, families and friends cannot visit loved ones in the hospital with COVID-19. 

Researchers at Curtin University in Australia found that those grieving a loved one who died of COVID-19 experience heightened symptoms of grief

Across the globe, COVID-19 has disrupted grieving rituals. Funerals, gatherings and religious ceremonies have changed or been put on pause. Moreover, being able to sit at someone’s bedside isn’t possible. 

Today, loss seems like it’s all around us, and many have not been able to find closure. Employers need to understand how the loss of someone who died from COVID-19 may feel immensely different than the loss of someone who passed away from natural causes. 

Employees may feel extreme distress, preoccupation or sadness from the sudden loss. These symptoms can lead to complicated grief and delay the person’s ability to process the loss.  

For more information about grief and COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 resources page

Seek Support from Lost & Found Grief Center

We believe no one should grieve alone. 

At Lost and Found, we support grieving individuals and families through therapeutic grief groups for all ages and individual grief counseling

We offer age-appropriate activities for small children and young adults. Our services also include groups for adults who have lost an infant, child or spouse or are facing a terminal illness

Contact Lost and Found Grief Center today. We provide a safe space to share feelings and interact with people who understand.  

If you are in crisis, please call your doctor or 911. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

A Day for Remembering Dad: Coping With Grief on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is not a day of joy for everyone. For many people, Father’s Day makes the loss of a father or child more profound. As the holiday approaches, you may feel a range of emotions—from anger to sadness to guilt. No matter where you are in your grief journey, Father’s Day can bring up these emotions and remind you of who you’ve lost. 

It’s impossible to avoid holidays like Father’s Day. Grocery stores set up Father’s Day displays. Commercials on TV market gifts for dad. Acquaintances ask you how you plan to celebrate, unaware of your loss. You may be wondering, “How do I deal with Father’s Day?” Know that there is no right answer or normal way to grieve. 

Grief does not have a cure, but you learn to cope with it over time. Preparation, planning, and finding a connection to the person you’ve lost can help you get through this Father’s Day. 

Your First Father’s Day Without Dad

The first Father’s Day without your father or child is the first time your loved one isn’t there to celebrate or participate in family traditions. Experiencing this first Father’s Day can feel all-encompassing.  

People experience the acute phase of grief shortly after losing someone. In this first  stage of grief, people feel intense and overwhelming emotional pain. Many people also experience physical reactions, forgetfulness, and distracting thoughts. On your first Father’s Day without your dad, the loss may feel extremely heavy. 

“It can be incredibly difficult—that first Father’s Day and that second one. After that, it doesn’t get better. It’s just that you’ve had experience managing [your grief], so you’ve figured out what works well and what doesn’t,” says Dr. Iman Christians, Chief Clinical Officer of Lost and Found Grief Center.  

Managing the Anticipation of Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, you may feel like doing something to honor your loved one, or you may feel like doing nothing at all. For some people, the days leading up to Father’s Day are worse than the day itself. At Lost and Found Grief Center, we encourage people to create a plan for Father’s Day and spend time with the people they love. 

Form a Plan for Yourself 

It’s important to decide what you will be doing on Father’s Day. Where will you be? Will you spend time with your family? Will you go to the gravesite? Will you volunteer with an organization? Whether you want to participate in a special activity or stay home and do nothing, planning helps you feel prepared, and it can ease anxiety you feel about the holiday. 

If your children have lost their father, let them play a part in the planning process. Ask your children how they’d like to remember their dad. When children get to decide how they spend Father’s Day, you acknowledge the family’s loss and give them an outlet to express their love for their father. 

Think About Social Media

In today’s world, it’s hard to separate yourself from social media. Many people post about their fathers on and around Father’s Day. You may not want to see images of other people with their dads. Decide if you want to see those things before and on the day, and monitor your social media use accordingly.

Be With People You Love

Sometimes, the simplest things can be the most affirming and uplifting. If you feel up to it, plan to spend time with the people you love this Father’s Day. You may feel comfortable gathering with those who share your loss or talking to those who understand your grief. Together, you can do something meaningful like a balloon release or a visit to your father’s favorite place. 

Missing Dad on Father’s Day: How to Honor Your Father This Year

Finding a connection to the person you’ve lost helps you navigate grief. There may be a place, activity, or organization that meant a lot to the person. You could visit your loved one’s favorite fishing hole, make a donation in their name, or cook their favorite meal. 

No matter what you do, acknowledging that the person existed and that you miss them is essential. Sharing stories about the person you’ve lost with others can reaffirm their impact on your life and give you a chance to express how much they mean to you. 

You may wonder how to honor your deceased father or child this Father’s Day. Depending on how you feel, what you do around Father’s Day may change, and that’s OK. Remember that there’s no right way to honor or remember your loved one. 

“Don’t get stuck on trying to find the right way. Try a few different things. Whether it’s lighting a candle or it’s looking through pictures that you have, try a few different things out and see what feels right,” says Dr. Christians. 

The Cyclical Nature of Grief 

Grief is complicated and confusing. As holidays come around, you won’t feel the same way every year. You may not feel many emotions this Father's Day; ten years down your grief journey, however, you may feel strongly around this time of year.

“Grief is not a single line that you follow. It’s cyclical. It can come back to you. It can hit you in different ways,” says Dr. Christians. 

Milestones in life also impact how we feel on Father’s Day. Graduations, weddings, and births can make us wish our fathers were there celebrating with us. 

This Father’s Day, make a plan for yourself and your family to celebrate your loved one in a way that feels right to you. 

Remember that you are not alone in your experience. Lost and Found Grief Center offers support groups and grief counseling services for children, teens, and adults at any stage of their grief journey. 

Contact Lost and Found for more information about how we can support you this Father’s Day.