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How to Help a Grieving Teen 

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Parenting, Teenagers | 0 comments

The death of a pet, friend, teacher, or loved one can catapult a teen into an emotional process of grief. The depth of grief will be influenced by how close she was to the person or pet and the circumstances around the death.  Many parents are unprepared to help their teen deal with a sudden loss. They often feel ill-equipped to support their teen through the intense emotions that arise.

There is no one right way to support a grieving teen, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind: 

 

  • Validate your teen’s feelings and be prepared for the waves of different emotions.  Affirm that it is ok to cry and then laugh and then be angry.  Grief is not a linear process.  
  • Avoid comments that may minimize her feelings or seem presumptuous. For example, “I know exactly what you are going through” or “You must be feeling…”  can send the wrong message.  Instead, try asking questions like, “Would you like to tell me what this is like for you?” or “What kind of feelings and thoughts have been coming up for you?”  The latter questions demonstrate genuine curiosity and support.  They also encourage your teen to process her feelings. 
  • Offer coping strategies like journaling, art, or talking with a professional*. Many teens feel more comfortable opening up to a person outside the family or friend group and benefit from learning additional ways to handle difficult experiences. 
  • Prepare for questions.  A loss may trigger your teen to ask big questions about life.  Listen thoughtfully and engage in conversations that allow your teen to contemplate and find meaning.
  • Invite your teen to consider what she is discovering about herself, others, and life.  You may ask questions like: 
    • What did the person mean to you? 
    • What did you (or others) learn from him/her? 
    • What are you learning about yourself?

 

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You may also offer this insight to your teen: 

 

  • Grief is unique and there is a wide range of responses to loss. One person’s pain cannot be compared to another.  Allow yourself to go through your unique process without shame or comparison.
  • As hard and uncomfortable as they are, allow your feelings.  Talk about it with friends, family members, or other trusted adults.  Remember whatever you are feeling is OK and you are not alone. 
  • Trust the process. There will be highs and lows and eventually, you will reach a point of acceptance.  Don’t beat yourself up for experiencing moments of joy as you grieve or for moving forward with your life.
  • Take care of yourself. Sleep, eat well, and exercise. 

 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting a grieving teen, but it is always important to move through the process alongside your teen.  Offer love, support, and guidance. If you are also impacted by the loss, take care of yourself. Asking for help can set a helpful example and show your teen how she can do the same. 

 

*If you notice drastic changes in your teen’s behavior or emotional state, or if she engages in unhealthy, unsafe coping mechanisms, call her doctor or a medical professional who specializes in grief. 

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