Childhood Traumatic Grief Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Each child grieves the death of a significant person in his or her own way. As reactions can vary according to age, ability to understand death, and personality, even children in the same family may react differently. Some children develop traumatic grief responses, making it even harder to cope. When this happens children get “stuck” in negative images, thoughts and feelings about the death. This can make it harder to do schoolwork, behave at home, and interact well with friends. Parents and caregivers can play a key role in helping children learn healthy ways to manage their feelings. In addition, adults caring for children who experienced the traumatic death need help with their feelings and reactions so they can support their children and model positive coping. Caregivers are invaluable in helping their children, providing comfort, and recognizing when a child is struggling and may need more help.

The NCTSN has many CTG resources and materials to help parents and caregivers understand the signs that their child or teen may be having traumatic grief reactions, tips for helping him or her, and guidance for locating a mental health professional.

Page Contents:

NCTSN Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Recognizing and Responding to Childhood Traumatic Grief
Helping Teens with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (PDF)
Describes how teens struggling with the death of someone significant may feel and what you can do to help.

Helping Young Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (PDF) 
Outlines the feelings of children struggling with the death of someone meaningful and what you can do to help.

Helping School-Age Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (PDF) 
Explains the thinking of school-age children with traumatic grief and ways you can help.

Childhood Traumatic Grief Additional Resources—For Caregivers (2010) (PDF)

Childhood Traumatic Grief Additional Resources—For Children and Teens (2010) (PDF)

It's Okay to Remember (Video)
A moving first-person narrative illustrating how a family can cope with the pain of death and eventually heal. Family members share their story of the traumatic grief of one daughter after her sister's sudden death. The video helps parents, educators, pediatricians, and others who care for children to understand childhood traumatic grief.

Ready to Remember: Jeremy's Journey of Hope and Healing (PDF)
Ready to Remember tells the story of a 10-year-old boy following the tragic death of his father. Jeremy has reactions to traumatic reminders, and he struggles at school and at home. Developed for the school-age reader, with a caregiver guide, the illustrated book describes Jeremy's journey as he and his family get help and are able to enjoy happy memories together.

Rosie Remembers Mommy: Forever in Her Heart (2015) (PDF)
Rosie Remembers Mommy: Forever in Her Heart is the story of a young girl who is struggling after the death of her mother. We follow Rosie as she expresses wishes to see her mom, feels reluctant about school, finds no pleasure in activities she formerly found enjoyable, wonders whether she could somehow have caused her mother’s death, and even refuses her favorite meal that Daddy has made. Rosie and Daddy go to meet Anna, who works with children after someone dies. Through play, song, and art, Anna helps Rosie eventually cope with the loss of her mother. The story also helps illustrate how a parent can provide solace and support to a child after a death.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Patricia Van Horn who championed the care of traumatized young children and families. She will stay forever in our hearts.

Childhood Traumatic Grief Educational Materials
The following materials on childhood traumatic grief present general information for parents and in three formats: (1) an overview in 4 pages; (2) an in-depth guide to Childhood Traumatic Grief in six-pages; and (3) a brief information sheet in a one-page, two-sided handout.

Child Traumatic Grief Educational Materials: For Parents (2004) (PDF)

     >En Español: Guía informativa para los padres sobre la aflicción traumática infantil (2004)

Unconfirmed Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief
An unconfirmed death occurs when a family does not know if a missing person has died and whether or not that the person will return. Such situations can occur during war, through kidnapping, or during natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. In such cases, children may continue to hope, imagine, or plan for the person's return and feel guilty or disloyal during rituals or holidays spent without the missing person. The uncertainty of the death can be confusing and can mean that traditional and potentially comforting rituals, such as a funeral, cannot take place. Unconfirmed death can also lead to traumatic grief reactions in children.

Coping with Unconfirmed Death: Tips for Caregivers of Children and Teens (2009) (PDF)
Unconfirmed death can be traumatic for children and teens, in part because the uncertainty about the death makes it difficult for them to complete many of the tasks of normal bereavement. This publication offers caregivers advice on helping children deal with the complex emotions that arise when the death of family member or other meaningful person in a child's life is suspected, but unconfirmed.

Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief
The death of someone significant can be very difficult and sad for a child or teen, but when a sibling dies, the family faces a unique set of challenges. Siblings often have very complicated relationships, with conflicting feelings for each other. When a sibling dies, past interactions and feelings can affect the surviving child's grief and the family's bereavement process.

Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief: Information for Families (2009) (PDF)
This publication offers caregivers information about the particular grief reactions that a child may have when a brother or sister dies and provides tips to help the grieving child. It includes an extensive listing of books—organized by age of the intended audience—websites, and videos. Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief also offers self-care advice for caregivers to help them cope with their grief reactions.

Sibling Death and Traumatic Grief Additional Resources—For Caregivers (2010) (PDF)
Sibling Death and Traumatic Grief Additional Resources—For Children and Teens (2010) (PDF)

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Learning Center for Child and Adolescent Trauma: Child Traumatic Grief Webinar Speaker Series

Grief, Loss, and the Path of Healing among American Indian Youth and Communities  
Webinar presenters—two clinicians who are native to Montana tribes and two non-native clinicians who have worked in an American Indian community—discuss the unique experience of loss and grief of American Indian children and communities, review death and loss within an intergenerational context, and teach participants about grounding interventions, assessments, and research in culture and community. Presenters demonstrate how to adapt interventions to accommodate culture and evaluate instruments for cultural effectiveness.

Growing Up with Traumatic Grief  
In this webinar, speakers address child traumatic grief and loss through the experience of a young woman whose parent died in a tragic accident. Presenters provide a knowledge base for individuals in systems that serve children, adolescents, and their families who have experienced traumatic grief, including parents, teachers, child welfare workers, resource parents, caregivers, and mental health providers.

Holidays, Celebrations and Traumatically Bereaved Children
Webinar presenters discuss ways holidays and other personally meaningful dates can serve as trauma/grief reminders, including how culture can dictate children's reactions to reminders and the need for therapists to understand their clients' culture. The presentation also addresses personal, public, and school-related reminders, and the presenters offer ways parents, teachers, and other adults can support traumatically bereaved children.

Ready to Remember: Helping Children with Traumatic Grief  
Webinar presenters describe childhood traumatic grief and introduce their book, Ready to Remember: Jeremy’s Journey of Hope and Healing. Along with the authors, family members answer questions about the experience of processing their grief, the treatment they received, and the coping skills and resilience of their families.

You are Not Alone: Helping Children with Traumatic Grief  
In this webinar, presenters explain traumatic grief in preschool- and school-aged children, introduce resources for children and caregivers developed by Sesame Workshop and the NCTSN, and describe how clinicians and caregivers can use these resources to help children in their process of grieving.

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