Grief and bereavement
Treatment & Care
It’s entirely natural that you may be very worried about your child right now. Grief is an exhausting and difficult process, regardless of the circumstances. But you can rest assured that at Children’s Hospital Boston, your child and family are in good hands.
If your child is experiencing severe grieving, it’s important to understand that he cannot just “snap out of it” or will himself to feel better. Without treatment, symptoms of intense grief can last for months or even years and can lead to major depression.
The good news is that, with compassionate and knowledgeable care, your child can learn to cope with his grief and to manage his feelings in a more constructive, healthy way. Treatments will vary from child to child, and your Children’s clinician will work with you and your child to determine the right approach over the long term.
Support groups can be in-person or online, and are available for children as well as parents and families. A support group is a gathering of others who have experienced a loss and are grieving. Moderated by a mental health professional, the support group will help your child:
- understand and accept his loss
- vocalize his thoughts, concerns and questions
- identify and manage his emotions
- meet and talk to others who are in similar situations
The mainstay of mental health treatment at Children’s is psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” to help your child learn how to cope with his grief and accompanying feelings. Coping strategies learned in therapy include:
- identifying and talking about feelings, worries and relationships
- stopping automatic negative thoughts (“Nothing will ever get better now that Dad is gone”)
- relaxing the mind and body
- finding activities that are engaging and comforting
- discovering and appreciating positive things
- building hope for the future
Using these strategies, your child will be able to:
- work through his grief
- find a way to balance his sadness and his memories of the loved one with moving forward in life
- build and repair relationships
Since the death of a loved one has an impact on the entire family, receiving psychotherapy as a family can be a very beneficial way to teach all family members coping skills while showing unified support for the child.
Because strong feelings of grief can recur many years after a death—often triggered by a memory, anniversary or even a dream—follow-up care is essential for your child. It’s critical that you know your child’s moods and routines, and don’t hesitate to ask him whether he’s feeling ok if you suspect his grief is re-emerging.
Your Children’s clinician will advise you on the best way to monitor and support your child and family over the long term.
Stay up to date on the hospital’s latest patient care and research news.
Coping and support
The ups and downs experienced by a child—and family—living with the aftermath of a traumatic event can be frightening, draining and hard to understand. In addition to the information provided here, you may find comfort and support from the following resources:
Patient and family resources at Children’s
For children and families affected by life-threatening illness, our Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is available to provide supportive treatments intended to optimize the quality of life and promote healing and comfort. In addition, PACT can provide emotional support and help arrange end-of-life care when necessary. Please call 617-632-5042 for more information.
Children’s Center for Families is dedicated to helping families locate the information and resources they need to better understand their child’s particular condition and take part in their care. All patients, families and health professionals are welcome to use the center’s services at no extra cost. The Center for Families is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please call 617-355-6279 for more information.
The Children’s chaplaincy is a source of spiritual support for parents and family members. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy members—representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your child’s treatment.
The Bereavement Experience Journal was designed by Children’s psychiatrist-in-chief David DeMaso, MD, and members of his team. This online collection features thoughts, reflections and advice from kids and caregivers who have suffered a tragic loss.
Children’s Psychiatry Consultation Service provides several services, including:
- short-term therapy for children admitted to one of our inpatient units
- parent and sibling consultations
- teaching healthy coping skills for the whole family
- educating members of the medical treatment team about the relationship between physical illness and psychological distress
Children’s Behavioral Medicine Clinic helps children who are being treated on an outpatient basis at the hospital—as well as their families—understand and cope with their feelings about:
- being sick
- facing uncomfortable procedures
- handling pain
- taking medication
- preparing for surgery
- changes in friendships and family relationships
- managing school while dealing with an illness
- grief and loss
Children’s Integrative Therapies Team provides a number of services for hospitalized children, their families and their caregivers, including:
- massage therapy
- therapeutic touch
Visit our “For Patients and Families” page for everything you need to know about:
- getting to Children’s
- finding accommodations
- navigating the hospital experience
Please note that neither Children’s Hospital Boston nor the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s unreservedly endorses all of the information found at the sites listed below. These links are provided as a resource.
Helpful links for parents and families
- Bereavement Support Group at DailyStrength.org
- Comfort Zone Camp for Grieving Children
- GriefHaven: Providing Resources to Parents and Others Who Have Lost a Child
- GriefNet.org: Online Support Groups for Parents
- Helping Children Grieve a Suicide Loss
- Loss of a Child
- National Alliance for Grieving Children
- Rainbows International Grief Support Organization for Children
- Sesame Workshop: When Families Grieve
- The Children’s Room: Caring Support for Grieving Children, Teens and Families (Massachusetts)
- The Compassionate Friends: Supporting a Family after a Child Dies
- The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families
- The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens (Massachusetts)
- When a Pet Dies: Facts for Families (American Academy of Child Psychiatry)
Helpful links for teens
- Ele’s Place: Teen Page
- Help for Grieving Teens (The Dougy Center)
- Kids-to-Kids Online Support Group for Teens
- Teens’ Page (Children’s Grief Education Center)
- When a Brother or Sister Dies
Helpful links for younger children