Loss of a Loved One : 7 Tips to Help a Grieving Teen

Has your teen recently lost a loved one and is having a hard time processing all of his/her emotions? Have you found yourself in situation when you do not know what to say to your teen because he/she is grieving about someone who passed away?

Without doubt, irrespective of age, death of a loved one is one of the most difficult events in life and it’s particularly devastating for delicate youngsters who are already struggling with the challenging period of adolescence.

Unfortunately, on a yearly basis, thousands of teens experience death of a loved one, whether it is a sibling, a parent, relative or a friend. A fragile teen can be overwhelmed by the knowledge that this person is no longer with them.

The grief of an adolescent is influenced by many factors, including how the person died, what was their relationship, their past experiences with death, and their personal strength and weaknesses when it comes to coping with stress, strong emotions, and hardship.

When children go through their first experience with death and they do not have the right support from adults, many of them can face anxiety and stress because of the possibility of changes in their day-to-day life, family structure, emotional support and more.

A lot of experts agree that there is no one way to prepare children to deal with death and protect them completely from the pain of losing a loved one; however, they emphasize the importance of parents’ guidance and presence during this period.

A parent who is there for their children, that is, one who is open to listening and talking with their children, is one of the best possible support systems.

According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, author, educator, and grief counsellor in North America, parents, teachers, counsellors, and friends play a pivotal role in helping teens grieve in a healthy way.

He adds that by being open, loving, and honest, the loss of a loved one can be an opportunity for teens to learn about the happiness and pain coming from caring deeply for others.
This report will explore 7 useful tips that can be of aid for parents of grieving teens.

7 Ways to Help Grieving Teens

1. Help them understand the importance of loss 

Every parent should be aware that the death of a loved one is a devastating experience for young people and it can change their lives.

This being said, we need to be as gentle as possible and take into account the significance of loss and try to help from a compassionate point of view.

But, this is not always a straightforward situation- as grief is quite complex, its effects will differ from teen to teen. Hence, parents need to explain to their children that there is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide when they grieve.

On the contrary, this is a natural expression of the love and affection for the person who has passed.

Young people do not choose between grieving and not grieving whereas adults have a choice, that is, to help teens manage grief or not.

When you approach your child with understanding, love, and empathy, you can be a significant part of their healing process and make their grieving period a part of their growth and development.

2. Be prepared for existential questions

According to Laura McMullen, writer for U.S. News & World Report and education reporter, every person grieves in a different way and there are a lot of contributing factors playing their role.

As children enter adolescence, their growing brain begins to focus on the existential and the mysterious. Life and death are one of the major triggers of such thoughts.

When faced with death of a loved one, a teen may begin to question the meaning of life, what happens after we die, their own mortality, and so on.

Since their brains are not yet fully developed, these questions can be too much and parents do not always know the right answers, if any. But, we need to know that this too is okay and completely understandable.

One good approach is to try and express your way of living with the mysterious and unknown. Share with your child your emotions and thoughts and your beliefs about life and death and other spiritual and existential questions that may come up.

3. Don’t forget about routine

Teen years are a period when children are doing their best to fit in. And, when a tragedy like loss of a loved one happens, this becomes more difficult.

A teen will therefore search for a sense of normality and will not want to be left out. This is why routines can be beneficial and ideally, should be maintained.

Routine and daily life can be particularly affected when a child loses his/her parent or other close family member. This will lead to a lot of changes and add to the level of stress in the child.

To go through this transitional period, the adults in a teen’s life need to offer support, conversation, and preparation.

Explain to tour child that mixed feelings as a result of the situation are normal and that he/she should not feel guilty if they go back to their normal activities. Routine can help your teen feel less out of control and feel safer and more secure.

4. Give them the time to grieve

A lot of parents with grieving children use phrases like “be strong” and “carry on” without being aware that they are taking away their time to grieve and process.