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Common Responses of the Grieving Child or Teen

Academic Responses to Grief

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Failing or declining grades
  • Incomplete work, or poor quality of work
  • Increased absences or reluctance to go to school
  • Forgetfulness, memory loss
  • Overachievement, trying to be perfect
  • Inattentiveness
  • Daydreaming

Behavioral Responses to Grief

  • Noisy outbursts, disruptive behaviors
  • Aggressive behaviors, frequent fighting
  • Non-compliance to requests
  • Increase in risk-taking or unsafe behaviors
  • “Hyperactive-like” behavior
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Regressive behaviors
  • Increased need for attention
  • A need for checking in on surviving parent(s)

Emotional Responses to Grief

  • Insecurity, issues of abandonment, safety concerns
  • Concern about being treated differently from others
  • Fear, guilt, anger, rage, regret, sadness, confusion
  • “I don’t care” attitude
  • Change in values, questioning what is important
  • Depression, hopelessness, intense sadness
  • Regression to times when things felt safer and more in control
  • High need for attention
  • Overly sensitive, frequently tearful, irritable
  • Appears unaffected by death
  • Preoccupation with death, wanting details
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Social Responses to Grief

  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Withdrawal from activities or sports
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in relationships with teachers and peers
  • Changes in family roles (e.g., taking on the role of the deceased parent)
  • Wanting to be physically close to safe adults
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior/acting out
  • Stealing, shoplifting
  • Difficulty with being in a group or crowd

Physical Responses to Grief

  • Stomachaches, headaches, heartaches
  • Frequent accidents or injuries
  • Increased requests to visit the nurse
  • Nightmares, dreams or sleep difficulties
  • Loss of appetite or increased eating
  • Low energy or weakness
  • Hives, rashes, itching
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Increased illness, low resistance to colds and flu
  • Rapid heartbeat

Spiritual Responses to Grief

  • Anger at God
  • Questions of “Why me” and “Why now?”
  • Questions about the meaning of life
  • Confusion about where the person who died is
  • Feelings of abandonment and emptiness
  • Doubting or questioning  previous beliefs
  • Seeing the future as meaningless

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