DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES OF UNDERSTANDING DEATH

This guide should be used in understanding the developmental level of children, children's understanding of death, common grief reactions, and helpful approaches and interventions for children. It is important to note that a child's perception of death cannot be fitted into a fixed aged category. Although we accept that children's concepts develop in an orderly sequence, the rate of development may vary. A child's ability to understand the concept of death will large depend upon his/her cognitive development. There are several other important considerations to keep in mind when providing explanations and interventions to children who experience grief and loss. These considerations are the child's: social, physical, emotional, religious, cultural and personal experiences in understanding death. In addition, the reactions listed here are common grief reactions and may be demonstrated intermittently or continuously according to each individual child. It is also important to consider that there are children who react more severely and beyond normal grief reactions, that may suggest that he/she needs further professional assistance. Making an appropriate referral for grief counseling should be considered. Use this guide as a basic developmental foundation to begin understanding children and to feel more comfortable when helping them though a normal grief process.