The grieving child
Doctors can help children to come to terms with the loss of a parent
- By: Natasha Lovell, Dan Bordoley, Jason Ward
The death of a parent is one of the most fundamental losses a child can experience. It is important for all doctors to be able to deal with a bereaved child.
Every day in the United Kingdom about 50 children experience the death of a parent,1 and in the United States 4% of children under 18 have experienced the death of a parent.2 Studies have shown that at least half of these children experience difficulties in coping with day to day activities in the first year after the death,3 and one in five require referral to specialist services.4
Short and medium term effects of bereavement in children include heightened feelings of fear, a state of unease, physical symptoms, and difficulties learning and concentrating in school.567 A child’s loss of a parent correlates with later development of mental health problems.8 One study found parentally bereaved children more withdrawn, anxious, depressed, and