Grief and Loss in Teens

Teen grief and loss treatment can help people who are experiencing grief to a severity where it is crippling their normal everyday lives, hindering their ability to function. Often, teen grief is associated with the death of a loved one, or some other traumatic incident that overwhelms teens and adolescents emotionally. This leads to an inability to move past the event, getting stuck in a cycle of grief and pain beyond what is considered normal.

What Does Grief Look Like?

  • Grieving is healthy and is a necessary part of the healing process after the loss of a loved one, or in the face of tragedy. However, sometimes the severity of grieving can paralyze a person, making normal, everyday functioning extremely difficult or even impossible.
  • Someone who struggles with grief beyond what is normal may be depressed and may be experiencing a low mood for months after a person’s passing.
  • Another sign that someone is struggling to cope with their grief includes an inability to function at work or go on with certain responsibilities, weeks after the loss.

What Causes Grief?

Grief is invariably caused by suffering, although it is typically linked to suffering experienced not by ourselves, but by those closest to us. Grief is triggered through the feeling of loss, but the magnitude of the grief grows in relation to how much we loved the recently deceased, and how much they suffered prior to passing.

Degenerative diseases like cancer and AIDS can amplify grief, making it harder to move past a loved one’s death as their last days were particularly unpleasant or painful. Unbearable grief can be felt not only for family members and friends, but also for pets.


people in the US under the age of 25 suffered through the deaths of a loved one.


kids per year lose a parent before age 15.


of adolescents meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

How Can I Help My Teen with Grief?

Understand that grief is not wrong: it’s not wrong to grieve, even when you feel grieving isn’t warranted. It’s also not wrong not to grieve. Everyone handles death in their own private way, and your teen is no exception. Talk to them to try and understand how they think and feel about the loss, rather than feeling that their grief (or lack thereof) is inappropriate.

It’s about support, rather than treatment: Grief treatment may be a bit of a misnomer, so it’s better to think of it as grief support. You’re not here to stop your teen from grieving, but to help them grieve in a healthier way. Some teens lash out, using numbing experiences like drugs and risky behavior to feel anything but pain. Help them find a way to enjoy life despite the loss.

It’s okay to miss them: whether you’ve lost a friend, a partner, a family member, or a cherished pet, it’s okay to remember them, think of them, and miss them. In that sense, grief never fully goes away. But with time, it gets easier to think of them without falling apart. The thoughts may be somber, or they might even be cheerful, but they should never be debilitating. It’s important for your teen to know that they will never forget how they feel – but they can learn to live with the pain, rather than live by it.Video Player


What Types of Teen Grief and Loss Treatment Are Available?

It’s important for anyone experiencing grief to have support. This goes double for teens, because they are more susceptible to tragedy and trauma, events that are much more formative and long-lasting in their mind. Because the teen brain processes extremely negative emotion and information differently than a matured brain does, traumatic grief can end up having life-long effects and ramifications for a teen.

It can be overwhelming to try to address the pain and loss you’re feeling alone. That is why we strongly recommend looking into treatment as soon as possible, and not waiting until things get “bad enough” to warrant getting help.

Teen grief and loss treatment, because it addresses such delicate circumstances, is approached keeping individual differences in mind. Therapists are sensitive to the unique circumstances surrounding each patient’s grief, and treatment must maintain a very intentional sense of gentleness, in both designing the treatment and carrying it out. Grief treatment isn’t about getting people “on track” to grieving the right way, because there is no right way. Rather, it’s about providing people with the most supportive environment and resources possible, to help them address their experience, their feelings, the initial event, and the future.


At a time when often people find it too difficult to organize their thoughts, no less their lives, therapists can help provide necessary, helpful structure, both to daily life, and also, the process of grief. This, in and of itself, can provide relief to people and help them gain a sense of manageability. Rather than telling a teen patient what to do, a therapist would help them figure out what they want to do. This helps them think more about the future and their own lives, rather than dwelling on the past. Helping a patient get out of their own head is crucial for moving past trauma and grief.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is a necessary part of grief treatment and is often as helpful as it is difficult. People find it very hard to begin talking about what has happened, but it becomes easier with time, especially with a professional and sensitive therapist.

Therapists can provide a safe, open environment where people can be honest about whatever it is they’re feeling. They can also help prevent false ideas from developing (such as perhaps feeling a sense of guilt) and help lead people through their feelings, so they don’t become lost in what can feel like an endless spiral of emotion. Even if it’s hard to talk about at first, people gain tremendous relief from being free and open to discuss their thoughts and feelings, especially when reminded that they’re not in this alone.


In cases where the grief is coupled with much more severe symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide and self-harm, medication can be a good option to supplement therapy and help a teen fight their way out of the negative cycle. Sometimes medication can help provide a much-needed “boost” back toward level ground, from which they can begin addressing their thoughts and behaviors, and work through their grief.

Usually, antidepressants are prescribed in cases where grief is coupled with severe depressive symptoms or feelings of intense anxiety. Antidepressants like SSRIs have a low chance of side effects, which is why they’re most likely to be used. In most cases, however, medication is not necessary. Counseling and therapy is often enough.

Teen Grief and Loss Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

Treatment at Paradigm Malibu for grief and loss entails helping a person through the grieving process. It can be difficult to grieve fully while enveloped by stress and responsibility, and if coupled with co-dependent conditions like major depressive disorder or general anxiety, we at Paradigm Malibu offer teens a place to stay and work through the emotional pain of loss while treating their mental health symptoms.

Bereavement support is especially important to teens who struggle with severe psychiatric problems, as it can send them into a spiral of worsening symptoms. Paradigm Malibu specializes in treating teen mental health issues, and can be a good place to work through grief issues.

Making the daunting decisions of where to get help for your loved one is a very tall mountain of considerations. After screening the hundreds of available resources…. 98% of them are eliminated. The remaining possibilities: phone interviews, accessible in distance or communications with the treatment center and your child. Is it even possible to be involved in your child/ family’s healing? The few possible options upon touring the facility was the real eye opener! Everything looked good on the website….the phone interview was good, and even hopeful…..Not!! Finally !!! The one center, Paradigm Malibu has the most comprehensive treatments available. Ranging from traditional to alternatives that have proven success. Combining the individual, family, and group sessions daily is hard work for the adolescent. The reward is unbelievable for your child! A real honest sense of a calmer understanding of themselves. A maturity happens….and even smiles, hugs and laughter come with renewed confidence for them. I am so grateful for their expertise and passion for what they do for their clients….. The child that I once knew has returned, better, stronger, and willing to be happy!!
Thank you so much Paradigm Malibu!!

– Tommy J.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Grief and Loss

My loved one has already died and talking about it isn’t going to change that, so why should I get treatment?

Yes, therapy won’t bring your loved one back. But it might bring you back. Seeking treatment isn’t about changing the past; it’s about picking up the pieces and continuing the grieving process in a healthy way. The future can be a painful and difficult idea after loss, in and of itself. And so, while we would never want to hurry you forward into the future, we do want you to get there. We can’t change yesterday; that’s part of the hurt you’re feeling. But we do have today, and with it, we can try to create tomorrow.

How long will grief last?

There is no specific timeline for grief – it lasts as long as it lasts and is entirely based on any given individual’s struggles and memories. Grief therapy and treatment is not meant to negate or speed up the grieving process, but help someone through it, to ensure that they do not do anything that may be harmful to themselves or others.