My Child Hasn’t Cried — Are They Grieving?

Kids Path counselors often hear from parents or caregivers that their child has not cried after a significant loss. Some families worry that a lack of tears means their child is “bottling up” or repressing emotions in a harmful way.

Often, grief in children and teenagers looks different from what we expect. The range of feelings and behaviors tends to be broader in kids and teens than typical grief in adults.

Here are some of the most common grief responses for children and teens.

Sadness may not look like crying.

Certainly, some children react to a death by crying. Children who don’t cry after the loss of a loved one might express their grief in other ways. They might have less energy than usual or become distracted because of sad thoughts or memories.

Teenagers, perhaps due to feeling self-conscious, might cry in private rather than around family or friends. It is also typical of teens to express their sad feelings in creative ways, such as through writing or music, and to share more detail about emotions with their peers than with family members.

Anger is common after a loss.

One of the most common reactions to loss is anger. Younger children may be able to talk about feeling mad, or their anger may take the form of frustration, impatience or general “acting out.” Teens might also demonstrate angry behaviors or seem irritable. Regardless of how it is expressed, it’s important to let kids and teens know that it is okay and normal to feel angry when someone has died.

Children may worry about others dying.

Some children worry that something might happen to another person in their life. While some kids verbalize these thoughts, others experience anxiety in the form of nightmares or being fearful of separation from family members. It is also common for older children and teens to experience separation anxiety after a significant loss. Some children or teens ask questions about death or seem anxious about minor illnesses and injuries.

Families can support grieving kids and teens.

There are many ways to provide support at home after a loss. Adult family members can model talking about feelings and validate whatever is verbalized by a child or teen. Families can also offer safe and healthy ways to express grief emotions through art, play or movement.

Consult a Kids Path Counselor.

The licensed counselors at Kids Path provide no-cost phone consultations about how to support a grieving child or teen. Call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.