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 juniorboard@lostandfoundozarks.com 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). 

Our Mission

We strive to improve lives in our community by providing help, hope, and healing through professional grief support services.

Contact Us

1555 S. Glenstone Ave.
Springfield, MO 65804

P.O. Box 3008
Springfield, MO 65808

info@lostandfoundozarks.com

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