In Part One of this article, Atlanta DUI victim attorney Shane Smith discussed how infants, toddlers and preschoolers react to a loved one’s DUI death. Part Two will focus on the emotional reactions of school-aged children.
Most young children associate death with being very old. Losing a loved one to a Georgia drunk driving accident may be a child’s first realization that death can affect anyone. This realization can be scary. The child may begin to worry about his own safety and the safety of surviving loved ones. While very young children experience sadness at the loss of a loved one to a Georgia DUI car crash, school-aged children often deal with range of emotions, including loss, anger, fear, guilt and grief.
Young Children
Six-, seven- and eight-year-olds are developing a conscience. They know the difference between right and wrong, and feel guilty when they misbehave. However, they still lack the intellectual capacity to understand the difference between actions and events. They may feel that their own bad behavior caused the accident. They may believe that they are responsible for the DUI death or that the loss of a loved one is a consequence of bad behavior.
Children this age may cry to express their grief or they may withdraw and seem detached.
Around ages nine and ten, children can begin to understand death as an adult does. They can understand that all life ends in death and that anyone can die. Despite the understanding, there may be an initial period of denial as the child comes to term with the DUI death. Children of this age are able to understand that the loved one will not come back in the future, and can begin to grieve their loss.
While nine- to twelve-year-olds can understand death, they do not have the maturity to deal with or express their emotions and fears. Preteens are often tearful, irritable, withdrawn, or disruptive. They may start behaving like younger children, or they may try to challenge their feelings. Conflicting strong emotions may cause the preteen to engage in dangerous or self-destructive behaviors to test their own mortality.
Some children will not seem to grieve. These children may be trying to protect their parents, who also are suffering a loss.
Regardless of a child’s age, coming to terms with the loss of a loved one is difficult. The child needs the support and care of his surviving family as he deals with his emotions and learns to cope with the loss and changes within his family. Atlanta DUI victim attorney Shane Smith offers tips to help children deal with a Georgia DUI death in the article, “12 Ways to Help Your Child After a Georgia Drunk Driving Death.”
To learn more about the emotional impact of Georgia DUI car crashes, check the library section of this website. For additional information or to discuss your loved one’s death with an Atlanta DUI victim attorney, contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith at 866-979-1629.

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