How To Support Your Teen Through Grief

Supporting Your Teen Through Grief

Grief is one of the most painful, confusing experiences we go through as humans. The permanence of death is hard to grapple with and comes with feelings of denial, shock, anger, and sadness, among others. As adults, our own confusion, pain, and consideration of things like the meaning of life and death following the loss of a loved one can blur our ability to support others through the experience.  

Parents put pressure on themselves to act as experts in their children’s lives and help support them through things they do not understand. After the loss of a loved one, you as a parent may feel lost on how to help your kids process when you are unsure of how to process it yourself. The good news is that this feeling is normal and appropriate. The good news is that you are human, and being confused or stuck is okay. And the good news is that there are things you can do to help support your teen through grief to reduce your own emotional burden and boost their mental and emotional health.  

Steps to Support: The 5 Bs 

Be Honest 

When communicating with your teen about the loss of a loved one, it’s important to be open about the circumstances and feelings surrounding the death. Some believe that, because children and teens are not as mentally developed, they do not understand death. However, many teens already consider such topics, and their own mortality and purpose. Not only does being honest offer them a space to open up about their thoughts and feelings, but it reminds them that they are being considered and supported during this process.  

Be Patient 

A teen’s reaction to death can vary. Some may withdraw, while others reach out. It’s difficult to see our children in pain, and we may want to intervene by interrupting these reactions. At an age where many are grappling for a sense of identity, it’s important to value your teen’s choices and feelings throughout the grieving process. There are times when these responses and choices may become dysfunctional. Complicated grief can occur when symptoms of depression continue or worsen long after the loss has occurred (APA, 2024). However, normal grief takes time. If they spend more time in their room, or with friends, this does not necessarily mean they are avoiding you or hiding their pain. It is simply a way to process that pain. Allowing them the space to do this will boost their sense of support and autonomy.  

Be Positive 

Pain is an appropriate response to grief. Allowing ourselves to feel during times of great stress and sadness helps us accept the experience. However, there are positive emotions and realizations that can occur for ourselves and our teens during this process. Finding ways to honor the loved one who died by sharing stories, exploring pictures/mementos, and doing something active/fun can allow you and your teen to connect and find a light at the end of the tunnel.  

Be Aware 

As mentioned before, there are times when feelings as a result of grief can become unhealthy. When months have passed, other family members/friends are moving back into their “normal”, your teen begins to question their identity, and they still experience significant depression or anxiety, these may be signs they need additional support. Being aware of these signs, and support services such as counseling or grief groups can allow us to help our teens transition into a more functional life.  

Be Graceful 

As a parent, you may become so focused on your teen’s grieving process that you forget about taking care of yourself. Patience, awareness of your mental health/resources, and finding ways to honor loved ones can promote your healing. Remember, you are not a superhero. It’s okay to struggle as a parent. It does not diminish your role in their lives. If anything, it normalizes the experience of pain and boosts your ability to support your teen.  

Jamie Dana

Jamie Dana

Jamie Dana, MC, LPC, helps teens and adults overcome mental roadblocks and achieve their goals to live an elevated life. Specialties include research-based interventions to address stress and anxiety, trauma, self-esteem, eating issues and struggles of the gifted and high-achieving population. For more information about her techniques, services and additional resources to help you succeed, check her out at www.elevatecounselingaz.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram. You can also Contact her to schedule an initial appointment today