While grief is a commonly shared experience, many adults don’t understand how children process death or grieve. You’ll often hear “kids are resilient; they’ll get over it.” Caretakers and others in a child’s world assume that unless a child is acting out or exhibiting decidedly unhealthy behavior, the child is “over it” or not really affected by grief.

However, because childhood grief is often misunderstood, grief can remain an unresolved conflict well into adulthood.  Children outgrow many difficult things about childhood, fear of the dark, aversion to new situations, or anxiety about school. But a child never outgrows the death of someone they love.

According to research conducted by the New York Life Foundation, a parent’s death usually makes a severe impact on a child. 85% of children have trouble sleeping, angry outbursts, worry, depression, bed-wetting, and thumb-sucking. Some of these behaviors may fade, but in time other problems, such as lack of confidence and preoccupation with illness may continue. Research also shows that unaddressed childhood grief can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, recurring illness, decreased productivity, substance abuse, and suicide.