Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences anyone has to go through. The experience can be more difficult for adolescents, especially at such a transitional stage in their lives. Are they expected to act like children and bawl their feelings out? Or, should they act in a more adult-like way, in control and not being a bother to anyone? Teen grief can become bottled up as a result although, eventually, it will have to find an outlet in other ways.
When teenagers experience death in the family, they may not be the only ones who are grieving. They may have to share the grief of other family members when a parent or a sibling dies. For some families, articulating their grief around each other can be awkward and difficult.
How is Teen Grief Different?
Compared to adult grieving, teen grief can be unique in many ways. Outlined below are some of the reasons why a teenager’s grief can be different:
- Need for normalcy. Teens may feel pressured to act normally, even while grieving, by their family, peers, or community.
- Pressure, confusion, and feelings of vulnerability can drive some teens to withdraw into themselves. As teenagers, they may feel misunderstood as well.
- Spiritual questioning. Adolescence is also a time when teenagers begin to question notions about God, death, and the afterlife.
How Can Adults Help?
If you have a teenager at home who is coping with the loss of a loved one, there are many ways for you to help them grieve. Like adult grief, teen grief can also be overwhelming and may go through phases. It is best to remember that people, regardless of their age, may grieve differently. Being attentive to the needs and preferences of the grieving individual is always a good starting point.
The simple act of letting your teenager know that it’s okay for him or her to mourn is already a huge thing. Allow them to cry, to isolate themselves for a time, or take a break from school.
Also, some teens don’t cope very well by talking, but by doing. Whether it’s swimming o taking on a project, it helps for you to not only encourage such activities but to also be there.
- Listen without judging
It can take a lot for most teens to open up to an adult about their grief. Once they do it with you, it means you are someone they trust. Listen to their stories— their regrets, guilt, and hopes. The simple act of talking serves as a healthy way for them to process their loss and their feelings of grief.
- Recommend counseling carefully
Not everyone takes to counseling willingly or openly. If you must recommend counseling sessions, tread lightly. Rather than acting overbearing, it will be more helpful for you to discuss counseling as simply an option. You can also accompany you teenager during a session to let him or her know of your support.
Showing Teen Grief Sympathy in Many Ways
When dealing with the grief of an adolescent child, it pays to be more attentive and less judgmental. It’s never okay to shut them down and tell them that their way of grieving is an overreaction. When adults do this, they risk turning their teenage children into unfeeling, emotionally immature adults later in life.
Teen grief, like any other grief, will wear itself out in time. The best thing a parent, guardian, or any adult can do is to pay attention and to simply ‘be there’.
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