Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions.
At a time when trust and dependency are formed, a break even of no more than separation can cause problems in well-being. This is especially true if the loss is around critical periods such as 8–12 months, when attachment and separation are at their height in formation, and even a brief separation from a parent or other person who cares for the child can cause distress (Ainsworth 1963).
Even as a child grows older, death is still difficult to assimilate and this affects the way a child responds. For example, younger children will find the ‘fact’ of death a changeable thing: one child believed her deceased mother could be restored with ‘band-aids’, and children often see death as curable or temporary, more as a separation.
Reactions here may manifest themselves in ‘acting out’ behaviors: a return to earlier behaviors such as sucking thumbs, clinging to a toy or angry behavior. They do not have the maturity to mourn as an adult, but the intensity is there. As children enter pre-teen and teen years, there is a more mature understanding.