How to Help a Grieving Teen

When a teen loses a friend or loved one, they may have a wide range of responses. They might become frequently sad, withdrawn, or even appear as though nothing is wrong. Parents and caregivers might not know exactly how to respond to grief, especially if they’re grieving too. In situations such as divorce, loss of a grandparent, or even a sibling, the entire family might be grieving. If you’re looking for ways to help a grieving teen, this article will provide four tips about grieving to keep in mind.

Grieving will be a unique experience for everyone. Whether your teen is the only one in the family grieving or not, each person has their own way of expressing grief. As mentioned above, a teen might be very open about their emotions or they may be very withdrawn and reserved. Another teen might not want to talk to anyone in the family but feel safe enough to talk to a therapist. Some teens might need plenty of time alone while others need more time with friends and loved ones. As a parent, give your teen the space they need to heal, no matter what their grieving looks like.

There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to grieve. When addressing the concerns of adolescents, many people who have had any experience with grief have heard of the psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross. She developed five distinct stages to the grieving process based on her long-time work with her own clients. These stages form the acronym DABDA for easy recollection in their order. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet, even this loose guideline of the grieving stages doesn’t indicate that there is a right or wrong way to grieve. A teen might start out by being angry and then move into a state of denial, or the other way around. Each teen’s experience of grief will be different and no one way is right or wrong.

The grieving process is influenced by many factors. There are many circumstances that will play a role in a teen’s process of grieving. For instance, a teen’s grief may be influenced by the following:

  • the strength of a teen’s social support
  • circumstances of the death
  • whether or not your teen unexpectedly found the body
  • the nature of the relationship with the person who died
  • the teen’s previous experiences with death, if any

Keep this in mind when attempting to care for a teen who is grieving.

Grieving is an ongoing process. Even though the pain of grief will get better over time, the loss for a teen will continue to exist as long as that teen is alive. Grieving doesn’t ever go away. Instead, a teen might learn how to better manage their lives without the person they’ve lost. Eventually, a teen learns to accept life just as it is, without their special loved one in their life.

These are tips to keep in mind when you’re assisting a teen who is grieving. Let them have their space to grieve. And let them do whatever they need to do to grieve for the person they’ve lost.