Facing Bereavement for Youth

Facing Bereavement for Youth

Francesca Balzano, Lily Spinelli, Molly Stedman

Why Topic Was Selected


On a more serious note, we all have an interest in helping those who are facing the loss of loved ones, specifically children and adolescents.


Helpful Information

Honesty is best when discussing death, especially with children

Young children need less elaborate explanations of death but more assurance that the person dying loves them

Childhood development:

3-5 years old: deny death exists

6-9 years old: believe death exists but only happens to some people

9 years old & up: death is final and universal

p. 584 in the textbook


Design Idea

Target children affected by death and dying in a support group setting

Children 6-18 years old

Older children serve as mentors

6-10, 11-14, 15-18

Advertise in hospitals: oncology clinics especially, referral by nurses/doctors, posters on walls

Headquarters separate from hospital: super comfy, floors for each age group, Sunday sessions

Workers: child psychologists, grief counselors, hospice workers, chaplain/religious counselors


Design Process











Discovery: I have a challenge, how do I approach it?

As we know, death is inevitable, but we must find a way to cope with it. It’s not easy for children to develop successful coping mechanisms and skills to deal with death on their own – they need guidance.

6-9 years:

Common reactions of primary school children dealing with death include blaming themselves, looking for the person who has died, feeling their presence, withdrawing, feeling anxious or distressed, feeling embarrassed or different, lack of eating or sleeping, toileting problems, etc.

Primary school children have reported feeling better about death after:

Frequent reassurance that they are safe

Keeping routines and normal activities going

Being told that it is okay to be sad – using words to describe feelings

Being allowed to ask questions and have answers provided honestly

Comfort items being provided

Encouraged to play and being allowed to process what has happened

10-12 years:

Common reactions of older children dealing with death include being especially anxious of safety of family and friends, try very hard to please adults and not to worry them (not letting themselves grieve), feeling strong emotions such as anger and guilt, wanting to take on more adult responsibilities, etc.

Older children have reported feeling better about death after:

Having time to talk to loved ones about what has happened

Regular reassurance, including physical, such as a hug

Feeling understood and having time to grieve

Regular encouragement

Avoiding expectations of adult behavior



Discovery (cont.)

Teens (13-18) years:

Common reactions of teenagers dealing with death include being easily distracted or forgetful, having difficulty concentrating in school, academic decline, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty expressing intense emotions, blaming themselves, anxiety, questions or concerns in regards to death and dying, wanting to be surrounded by people more or be alone more, withdrawing, dreams about person who has died, bedwetting, risk-taking behavior, loneliness, depression, etc.

Teenagers have reported feeling better about death after:

Being honest with them about what’s happening

Be willing to listen and available to talk when needed

Acknowledging their emotions of fear, anger, and/or sadness

Having your loved one share their feelings with you

Being reassured that they are safe

Talking about what is normal in grieving processes

Keeping normal routines

Avoiding expectations of adult behaviors

Comfort through hugs, hand-holding, and encouragement

Being able to help with funeral planning, or something to remember the ‘loss’





Activities for Kids Dealing with Grief

Possible Reading Material

Approved by PSY 231


Trial groups for older children

Variable age groups and effectiveness of mentorship program

Which workers are most relevant for which groups and when

Personalized plans for different individuals



Session structure is not concrete

Topics for each session can be individualized based on group

Evaluation from both participants and supervisors

Variety of workers (clinicians, therapists, etc.) for division of work



Satisfactory mentorships

Kept in check through surveys

Effective advertisement

Ask families how they found out about us

Treatment/Session plans

Kept in check through surveys

Day and time of sessions

Very flexible, can be based off of availability of members

Age groups or group dynamics

Ages separated according to grief development

Effectiveness of treatment in relation to dying person

Look for specific problem, alter that individual’s treatment plan

Treatment after death




Corr, C. A., Corr, D. A., & Doka, K. J. (2018). Death & Dying, Life & Living (8th

ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.

Santrock, J. W. (2018). A Topical Approach to Life-span Development (9th ed.).

New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

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