Bereavement in children and teens

Bereavement is a temporary sadness related to a major loss. Bereavement typically lasts less than 2 months after the loss, but some symptoms of bereavement may last as long as 6 months. Some reasons children or teens feel bereaved include:1

  • Loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Ending of a friendship.
  • Death of a pet.
  • Death of a family member or close friend.
  • Parents' divorce.
  • Moving.
  • Changing schools or grade levels.

Mourning a loss is healthy as long as the child has a sense of reality about the death or loss and eventually is able to accept the loss as part of life. Most children will occasionally become sad about their loss again at different times during the next few months or even years.

If bereavement is constant and lasts longer than 2 months or is associated with feelings of guilt, thoughts of death, or a preoccupation with worthlessness, the child may be experiencing major depression instead.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (1996). Classification of Child and Adolescent Mental Diagnoses in Primary Care: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Primary Care Child and Adolescent Version, pp. 153–160. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Last Updated: April 16, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

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