“For adults grief is like wading through this enormous river
whereas for children it's puddle jumping,
but when they're in that puddle it's no different to the river.”
- Julie Stokes, Winston’s Wish
Have you ever been to a funeral where there are children present? Generally you can see them playing tag around the casket, or playing as though they have no concept of where they are. To adults this appears that they do not feel grief, at least not in the same way or magnitude that adults feel it. If you take nothing else away from this little musing of mine, please take away from this that children grieve also… it just looks different.
Beginning in utero and continuing until our mid-twenties, the human brain is continuously growing, and changing. Genetics and experience combine to mould our brains into what they will be in adulthood. What that means is that like their tiny bodies, their tiny brains are ever changing growing and adapting to the world around them.
Julie Stokes in the above quote from the amazing UK organization Wintson’s Wish (www.winstonswish.org) describes children’s grief brilliantly. Children jump in and out of grief, as if they take it for as long as they can handle, and then distract themselves with play, however when they are in that grief, their grief is intense. Unlike in adulthood where we deal with grief usually as a large chunk, children experience grief through each developmental stage of their lives. This is especially true for close deaths. A child who loses a parent in early childhood, may appear to come to terms with the loss easily, however they will experience that grief throughout their lives and at different stages such as when they attend school and see other children with both parents, and for important events. It’s important for those who love these children to be prepared for this and to love and embrace them. This is normal, not awesome, but normal.
November 16, 2023 is Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Children's Grief Awareness Day (childrensgriefawarenessday.org). I would like to propose, as caring adults we shed a light on something that does not receive nearly enough attention. Let’s talk about children’s grief, heck let’s normalize conversations about death and grief.
What I am asking you to do is take part in The Children’s Grief Awareness Day. How do you do this? Download the Children’s Grief Awareness Day Pledge childrensgriefawarenessday.org/cgad2/pdf/bubble.pdf