Children Grieving Loved Ones Killed at War

Have You Ever Worked for a Military Family?

By H.J. Fracaro

Children that lose a loved one are bound to have a difficult time coping, but when they lose a parent fighting a war in another country, it becomes even more complicated. These kids are at risk of experiencing traumatic grief, which is very much like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As with PTSD children may experience anxiety, heightened startle response, poor concentration, and nightmares. They often have intrusive thoughts, imagining how the person was killed or fantasizing about rescuing them. Avoiding photographs, talking about it, visiting the grave site, or watching military news is also common.

An added stressor is the media’s involvement. Stories on the news about the battle, number of casualties, and information on their parents’ memorial impede on their everyday life. They can overhear adult conversations with comments like, “He died needlessly in an unnecessary war,” which they take literally and find upsetting and confusing.

Adding to more changes during the all ready tumultuous time, children living in a military community may have to move, leave their school, and lose their military identity.

If you think you’re charge is suffering from traumatic grief, contact professional help or the National Child Traumatic Stress Network at

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