Grief and Death

How to support your infant or toddler (ages birth to 3)

Grief understanding and reactions
Toddlers may not know what the word death means. They may miss the sight, sound, feel or smell of the deceased person. A toddler may mirror an adult’s grief or emotions.

They may respond to grief with:

  • Anxiety
  • Biting
  • Bowel or bladder disturbances
  • Crying
  • Eating
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping issues
  • Throwing

They may also be more clingy than usual.

How adults can help
There are many things parents or caregivers can do to make death a little easier for small children to take:

  • Giving love and attention, such as eye contact, touching, holding, rocking, singing and playing.
  • Meet the child’s physical needs, keep up with routines, provide familiar caretakers and be patient during difficult times.
  • Avoid words, such as gone away, lost and gone to sleep to explain death.