Children and adults in grief sometimes feel pressure from themselves and from others to act and feel a particular way and worry that they are coping wrong or badly. Everyone grieves differently, even within a family, and the spectrum of grief reactions is vast and diverse. It is important to support what is comforting and helpful for someone in grief; they are the expert on how they are feeling and what does and doesn’t “work” for them.
What are common symptoms of grief?
Children and adults in grief sometimes feel pressure from themselves and from others to act and feel a particular way and worry that they are coping wrong or poorly. Everyone grieves differently, even within a family, and the spectrum of grief reactions is vast and diverse. It is important to support what is comforting and helpful for someone in grief; they are the expert on how they are feeling and what does and doesn’t “work” for them.
- Shock and Disbelief – Right after a death, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened or even deny the truth. You may keep expecting your loved one to show up, even though you know they are gone.
- Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom or grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
- Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty over things you did or did not say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings. After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more that you could have done.
- Anger – Even if the death was no one’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful.
- Fear – You may feel anxious, helpless or insecure. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person or the responsibilities that you now face alone.
- Physical Symptoms – Grief may include fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches, pain and insomnia.
Where should I go for help?
- Know that grief will change over time – Often, people who are grieving will feel pressure to resolve their grief quickly because friends, family and those around them may inadvertently make them feel like their grief is too intense or is lasting too long. This pressure can be detrimental to those in grief, making them feel that they are doing it wrong or that something is wrong with them. Grief never ends; though it changes over time, it continues to evolve as we integrate the loss.
- Think about talking with a professional – enlisting the help of a therapist can assist you with addressing your thoughts and feelings surrounding your grief and loss.
- Join a support group – Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can be healing.
- CHOC Bereavement Support Groups for the Death of a Child
please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Community Bereavement Support Groups
- Compassionate Friends. Nationwide bereavement support groups for families after the death of a child, at any age, from any cause.
- The MISS Foundation. A nonprofit, international organization that provides immediate and ongoing support to grieving families, empowerment through community volunteerism opportunities, public policy and legislative education and programs to reduce infant and toddler death through research and education.
- Jonathan’s Giving Tree. An organization that assists with funding for funeral services for low-income families of children ages 12-24 who have passed away by car accident, unintentional self-medicating or suicide. They provide grief counseling, organize support groups for parents, siblings or families of any economic status.
- New Hope Grief Support Community. A non-profit therapy and grief education program based in Southern California providing grief groups, resources and educational opportunities for bereaved families.
- Empty Cradle. A non-profit peer group for parents who have experienced the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.
- Our House Grief Support Center. An organization that provides essential grief support for adults, teens, children and toddlers, including support groups specific to the age of the griever, length of time since the death and the relationship to the person who died.
- The Dougy Center. An organization helping children, teens, young adults and their parents cope with death since 1982. They provide many resources in Spanish.
- CHOC Bereavement Support Groups for the Death of a Child
How do I know if I need a mental health specialist?
Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can interfere with the way we think, feel and act. Although grief is normal after a death, it deserves attention when problems are severe, persistent and affect daily activities. Seek help if you feel like life is not worth living, if you wish you had died with your loved one or if you feel disconnected for others for more than several months. A CHOC social worker can help you connect with a professional therapist by emailing email@example.com or calling 714-509-8521.
- If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.
- To reach the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741-741 or visit crisistextline.org.
- To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 9-8-8 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org
What to and not to say to a loved one who is grieving?
Most of us are never taught how to react to grief and loss. So, we may not know what to say, or not to say, when a person in our lives is experiencing a loss. Instead, we may fall back on using platitudes or cliches to attempt to console our loved one. Below are some things that we can say, and not say, when a loved one is grieving:
- Rather than saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, try saying “thank you for telling me what happened. I know there are no words to make it better. Just know that I am here and want to support you however I can.” While there isn’t anything wrong with the phrase “I’m sorry for your loss”, the phrase is a common one, so consider that your loved one may have already heard it several times since their loss and that it may have lost its meaning in the process.
- Rather than saying “I know what you are going through”, consider saying “Grief is so unique. Do you feel comfortable sharing with me how this has been for you?” While you might want them to know that you understand what they are going through, by saying “I know what you are going through” will take away the person’s opportunity to share, in detail, about their grief.
- Rather than using a phrase like “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” think about specific ways in which you can help your loved one. By giving your loved one options on how you can help, you are alleviating the pressure they may feel from trying to figure out what they need or how you can help them.
- Rather than saying “you’re so strong”, try saying “I know that grief looks different for everyone, especially privately versus publicly, so I am so happy to see you here today.” Assuming that a person is “strong” by attempting to carry out their usual day-to-day activities may send them the message that it is better if they hold their feelings inside or try to hide how they really feel.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.
(877) 7CRISIS or (877) 727-4747
Text “HOME” to 741741
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Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).