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Childhood Traumatic Grief

Childhood Traumatic Grief (CTG) or complicated grief is a condition believed to develop in some children following the traumatic death of a significant person in their lives.  A traumatic death is one which the child experiences as unexpected, frightening, gory or shocking.  Thus, a death can be perceived as traumatic by a child even if not perceived this way by adults.

Children with CTG develop some symptoms which resemble those seen in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), particularly avoidance of reminders of aspects of the death and/or the person who died.  Children with CTG may also experience intense longing for the deceased, feeling that life is empty without that person, or that they can't go on without the person who died.

Children with CTG are "stuck" on the traumatic aspects of the death and avoid memories of the deceased because these memories segue into reminders of the frightening way the person died.  They don't like to think or talk about reminders.  This avoidance prevents them from successfully negotiating the usual tasks of bereavement that involve reminiscing about the deceased.

Preliminary studies support a CTG treatment model that addresses both the trauma and grief symptoms, with resolution of the traumatic aspects first.