Coping with the death of an important person in one's life is especially difficult for children. If the person died under traumatic circumstances or if the death was particularly traumatic to the child, that child may have a traumatic grief reaction.
What is the typical grieving process? How is childhood traumatic grief different from the grief a child would ordinarily experience? What can caregivers and professionals who work with children do to respond to it?
The information and resources provided here help address these questions.
Learn more about traumatic grief in the NCTSN Learning Center for Child and Adolescent Trauma  . The Child Traumatic Grief Speaker Series features experts from the Network. Free CEs are available.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no "appropriate" length of time to experience grief following the death of an important person. The grieving process varies from child to child and changes as the child grows older. Children's reactions to death depend upon the child's age, developmental level, previous life experiences, emotional health before the death, and family and social environment. Common expected responses include:
American Hospice Foundation Grief Center 
Information for employers, educators, and healthcare providers, as well as articles, consumer-friendly educational materials, and professional training tools on grief.
Association for Death Education and Counseling 
Professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence and recognizing diversity in death education, care of the dying, grief counseling and research in thanatology.
The Centering Corporation 
Organization dedicated to providing education on grief and loss for professionals and the families they serve.
Hospice Foundation Of America, grief resources 
Wide range of resources on coping with grief, including articles, a newsletter, and a forum for sharing personal stories.
Open to Hope 
Online resource center dedicated to helping people find hope again after loss.
Wendt Center for Loss and Healing 
Resource for restoring hope and healthy functioning to adults, teens, and children who are coping with grief, loss, and trauma. Includes informational pages on grief and comprehensive resource lists.
The death of someone special can be very difficult and sad for a child or teen, but when it is a sibling who dies, the family faces a unique set of challenges. Siblings often have very complicated relationships. Sisters and brothers experience a range of sometimes conflicting feelings for each other. When a sibling dies, these past relationships and feelings can affect the surviving child's grief and the family's bereavement process.
Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief: Information for Families (2009)  (PDF) 
This publication offers caregivers information about the particular grief reactions that a child may have when a brother or sister dies and provides tips to help the grieving child. An extensive listing of books—organized by age of the intended audience—websites, and videos is included. Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief also offers self-care advice for caregivers to help them cope with their own grief reactions.
The Compassionate Friends 
Organization dedicated to helping parents cope with the death of a child by offering peer support groups for grieving parents. The web site also provides a list of resources.
The Sibling Connection 
Resource for anyone who has lost a sibling. Includes information, articles, and resources about sibling grief at different ages.
Below are lists of some of the many resources on sibling death and childhood traumatic grief available to parents and caregivers, children, and professionals. Links to Web-accessible resources are also provided.
Please note that all product descriptions are based on information provided by the publisher or manufacturer, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the NCTSN. Inclusion on this site is not an endorsement of any product by the NCTSN.
Sibling Death and Traumatic Grief Additional Resources - For Caregivers  (2010) (PDF) 
Sibling Death and Traumatic Grief Additional Resources - For Children and Teens  (2010) (PDF) 
Sibling Death and Traumatic Grief Additional Resources - For Professionals  (2010) (PDF) 
Compassionate Friends. (1993). This healing path . Northbrook, IL: Film Ideas, Inc.
This 35-minute video addresses issues and concerns that affect those who are grieving the loss of a sibling. It includes an introduction by former Chicago Bear middle linebacker Mike Singletary, himself a bereaved sibling, and a discussion guide. The siblings interviewed share their pain, sadness, anger, and fear. They also discuss issues such as parental over protectiveness and their own hope for the future as they meet the challenge of their loss.
An unconfirmed death refers to a situation in which the family does not know for sure whether the person has died and has no guarantee that the person will return. Such situations can occur during war, through kidnapping, or during natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. In cases such as these, children may continue to hope, imagine, or plan on the person's return, and feel guilty or disloyal when engaging in rituals such as celebrating holidays without the missing person. The lack of certainty surrounding the death can be confusing and can mean that traditional—and potentially comforting—rituals such as a funeral cannot be observed. Unconfirmed death can also lead to traumatic grief reactions in children.
Unconfirmed death can be traumatic for children and teens, in part because the lack of certainty about the death makes it difficult for them to complete many of the tasks of normal bereavement. This publication offers caregivers advice on helping children deal with the complex emotions that arise when the death of family member or other important person in a child's life is suspected, but not confirmed.
Since 2001, thousands of military children have had parents killed in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many other children have had siblings, cousins, and other relatives die in war. Like other grieving children, military children who experience the death of someone special under traumatic circumstances can develop traumatic grief, which can interfere with their ability to grieve and to call up comforting memories of the person who died. Traumatic grief may also interfere with everyday activities such as being with friends and doing schoolwork. There are, however, unique aspects of military family loss that those who care for or work with grieving military children should be aware of. To find out more about military children and families click here .
Traumatic Grief in Military Children Information Series
Helping Military Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Parents  gives information on how military children dealing with the death of someone close to them may feel and what you can do to help.
Helping Military Children with Traumatic Grief: Tip Sheet for Educators offers information on how children dealing with trauma and grief responses may feel and how you can help them.
This series provides culturally competent materials for educating families, medical professionals, and school personnel about how to better serve military children who are experiencing traumatic grief.
Traumatic Grief in Military Children: Information for Educators (2008)  (PDF) 
Traumatic Grief in Military Children: Information for Families (2008)  (PDF) 
Traumatic Grief in Military Children: Information for Medical Providers (2008)  (PDF) 
Mental Health America, Helping Children Cope With Loss Resulting from War or Terrorism 
Overview of how to assist children who are coping with loss as a result of war or terrorist acts. Includes toll free number for accessing additional resources (800-969-6642).
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) 
800-959-TAPS (8277) (24-hour hotline)
Comprehensive resource for all who are grieving the death of a loved one serving our country.