Teenagers and Grief
Teenagers process grief more like adults, experiencing anger and sadness as they begin to cope. Don't feel disappointed if it seems that they may want to talk more to their friends than to parents, this is normal and can help them to share their feelings and heal. Because their grief is similar to that of an adult, a teenager may take longer to recover from a loss than a younger child. Questions may come up about mortality and vulnerability, and your role is to empathize with them, listen to their concerns, and remind them that their feelings are normal and things will get better with time.
A Message for a Grieving Teen
Hi. Glad you made it here. Chances are, you know someone who died. It might have been your mother or father. Your sister or brother. Your friend. It may have happened a long time ago or just recently. What has it been like for you?
Randy, a sophomore in high school, was 14 when his dad died of colon cancer. This is how he describes the experience of grieving the death of his dad:
“It’s been six months since my dad died. I haven’t told my friends how I feel. I just smile and make everybody laugh so they don’t know how much it hurts. I don’t talk to my mom because I don’t want her to feel worse. Once I did, but she got all teary. I felt like crying too. No way am I going to cry.”
Maybe you can relate to Randy. Or maybe you’ve felt some of these things:
I’m the only one.
No one understands what I’m going through, but they think they do.
I can’t talk to my friends about this.
I can’t talk to my parent(s) because they get too upset.
Everyone wants me to talk about my feelings and I don’t want to talk.
I just want to be alone.
I wish I didn’t feel so different.
When is this “grief” going to go away?
I am mad. I am sad. I hurt.
I don’t know what I feel.
I hate it when people tell me, “Move on.”
Sometimes it helps to talk to other people your own age who’ve had a death. Or to read about their experiences. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve a death. But there are some helpful and not-so-helpful ways that people grieve. You can learn about these things here.
Everyone grieves differently:
• One teen may want to talk about death
• Another may choose to cry
• One might write about their experiences in a journal or chat room
• Some choose to express their grief in creative/artistic ways
• Others are physical in their grief - participating in sports or other big energy activities
• No one way is the right way to grieve - your way of grieving is right for you
For more resources for grieving teens, from our friends at The Dougy Center, click here.