Children Grief During the COVID-19 Pandemic

OPINION ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 26 January 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.638866

Introduction

COVID-19 has profoundly shaken the world and changed the lives of children and families. People around the world are mourning a sense of freedom, normalcy, and routine. However, although in the same “storm,” children are not on the same boat as adults. Children may be at a higher risk for mental health effects, given their limited capacity to understand their surroundings, cope with stressors, and control their environments. In fact, research already demonstrates that COVID-19-related rates of depression and anxiety are prevalent among children and adolescents (1).

Research has shown that victims of the virus will likely leave behind a large number of grieving children and grandchildren, with rates of 2.2 children and 4.1 grandchildren bereaved for each person who dies (2). There is evidence on the failure of addressing the needs of bereaved children proactively and on an ongoing basis (3), which may result in poor mental and physical health (4). Also, it is estimated that 5 to 10% of children and adolescents who suffer the loss of a loved one develop clinically significant psychiatric difficulties (5); this number may be higher given the specificities of loss in the context of COVID-19. Finally, the evidence on childhood trauma and loss as a risk factor for adult psychopathology (6), highlights the need for early identification and intervention.