Childhood Traumatic Grief

What is Childhood Traumatic Grief?

Children grieve in their own way following the death of someone significant. While many children adjust well after a death, other children have ongoing difficulties that interfere with everyday life and make it difficult to the positive memories of their loved ones.

A child may have a traumatic reaction after a death that was sudden and unexpected (e.g., through violence or an accident) or a death that was anticipated (e.g., due to illness). If the child’s responses are severe or prolonged and interfere with the child’s functioning, the child may have a condition called Childhood Traumatic Grief (CTG). Thinking about the person who died—even happy thoughts—can lead to frightening images or memories of the way that person died. The symptoms of CTG include the following:

  • Repeated or intrusive images about the person’s death (such as in nightmares)
  • Avoidance of thinking or talking about the person who died, the cause of death, or avoidance of places, or activities associated with the person, or what happened
  • Negative beliefs or negative mood occurring since the death
  • Other changes in behavior, such as trouble sleeping, poor concentration or being jumpy   

The NCTSN has many CTG resources and materials that you can access below to learn more about CTG and how to help children and teens following traumatic loss.

Mental Health Professionals Parents and Caregivers Military Children and Families Educators Kids and Teens