Welcome to Josie's Place grief support groups for children.

What is Grief?

by the Dougy Center

  • When someone close to us dies, we experience something called grief. You may have heard about grief but are not quite sure what it is all about. Grief can be feelings: anger, sadness, worry, relief, fear, numbness. Or it may be thoughts, such as "Who will take care of me now that my mom died?," "Why do people get cancer?," or "What will happen next?" Sometimes, grief affects our bodies. We feel sleepy, or have trouble falling asleep. We may not feel like eating. We may have headaches or stomachaches or all of a sudden don't feel like doing things we usually like to do, such as playing or going to school. All of these experiences are normal for grieving kids. 

  • You might have wondered: will I ever get over this? There is no magic pill for grief. It's not something you "get over." A lot of people say grief is like a journey. Although it never ends, things do get better, and there are things you can do to smooth over the rough and rocky places along the way.

Every kid grieves differently. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve. There are, however, some helpful things and not-so-helpful things you can do while you're grieving.

Chances are, you know someone who died. It might have been your mother or father. Your sister or brother. Your friend. It may have happened a long time ago or just recently. What has it been like for you? Randy, a sophomore in high school, was 14 when his dad died of colon cancer. This is how he describes the experience of grieving the death of his dad:

"It's been six months since my dad died. I haven't told my friends how I feel. I just smile and make everybody laugh so they don't know how much it hurts. I don't talk to my mom because I don't want her to feel worse. Once I did, but she got all teary. I felt like crying too. No way am I going to cry." 

  • Maybe you can relate to Randy. Or maybe you've felt some of these things:
  • I'm the only one. 
  • No one understands what I'm going through, but they think they do. 
  • I can't talk to my friends about this. 
  • I can't talk to my parent(s) because they get too upset. 
  • Everyone wants me to talk about my feelings and I don't want to talk. 
  • I just want to be alone. 
  • I wish I didn't feel so different. 
  • When is this "grief" going to go away? 
  • I am mad. I am sad. I hurt. 
  • I don't know what I feel.
  • I hate it when people tell me, "Move on." 

Sometimes it helps to talk to other people your own age who've had a death. Or to read about their experiences. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve a death. But there are some helpful and not-so-helpful ways that people grieve. You can learn about these things here.

How Should I Grieve? Everyone grieves differently:

  • One teen may want to talk about death. 
  • Another may choose to cry. 
  • One might write about their experiences in a journal or chat room. 
  • Some choose to express their grief in creative/artistic ways. 
  • Others are physical in their grief - participating in sports or other big energy activities.

No one way is the right way to grieve - your way of grieving is right for you.