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Teen Grief

As a teen, losing someone can be very difficult. This may be the first time that you have experienced the death of someone you love. When a loved one dies, your whole world can change.

You are left to figure out what life will be without that person.  This new reality can be hard to accept. And, you may not know what that means for you. You may find it hard to relate to friends and family in the same way while you are grieving.  Nothing may feel good or right, and you may have intense emotions that you are not used to. You may worry that you are not grieving right, or you may just feel numb. Also, you may have feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and anger.  Your grief may also make it difficult to concentrate in school. 

Tips for Teens

Remember that grief is a process. You may have very strong feelings of shock, sadness, confusion, and many other reactions. It is normal to have a wide range of emotions, and for some feelings to come and go. Also, grief has its own pace, and there is no timeline. 

Make room for your feelings. Many strong feelings will come and go. It is important to acknowledge your emotions, not pretend they are not there. Be kind to yourself, and let yourself have your feelings.  Try to figure out what coping skills help you deal with your grief, and what does not help.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You can be happy and be grieving at the same time, though you may feel guilty for laughing or having a good time. You still are allowed to have fun with friends, play sports, and participate in activities that you enjoy. 

Seek support. Grief can be lonely, especially if you do not have other peers who have experienced loss. Talk to a friend, family member, or a trusted adult. Also, there are many online resources and groups that may help you.

Use creative expression. It can be helpful to paint, draw, sing, or play music that you like. Creative projects can help you express emotions and even memorialize your loved one through art.

Tips for Parents of Teens

Be a supportive presence. This may be your teen’s first experience with death. They may have many questions, or they may not want to discuss the loss at all. It can be helpful to talk  openly and honestly, listening, allowing them to grieve how they want. Also, they may be able to decide how they will cope, and will benefit from adults in their life showing a healthy model of coping.             

Acknowledge their feelings. Many teens express that they feel misunderstood, and grieving teens may especially feel that others do not understand. Do not assume what your teen may be thinking or feeling. Acknowledge their importance, their opinions, thoughts, and feelings. Validate their feelings, do not minimize them. 

Each teen may grieve differently. There is no one way to grieve, and teens may have a variety of reactions. Some teens may want to talk, and others may be more cautious about when and how they show their emotions. Try to prepare your teen for shifts in feelings, and try to.  Offer some options for expressing emotion, such as journaling, art, music, but do not push if they are not interested. 

Recognize that teens are trying to define themselves.  A death of a loved one may result in a shift in the family dynamic, or a change to your teen’s daily life. Also, it is often important for a teen to feel that they fit in. They may be the only one in their friend group that has experienced loss, and so it may be important for them to bond with others who have a similar experience.

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