Teens face many pressures, decisions, and problems as a normal part of growing up. When a death or other major loss occurs, it can turn their lives upside down. Aside from the death of a friend or family member, teenagers grieve other kinds of losses: changing schools, parents divorcing, friends moving away, the break-up of a relationship.

 How can a parent or other caring adult be supportive and provide a grieving teenager the necessary help? Let’s explore teenage grief and ways you can help the teen in your life, no matter what the loss.

 Remember it’s hard being a teenager

Think back to your teen years. Not only the good times and fun, but also the frustration and anxiety. Your teenager is experiencing many emotional, physical, and psychological changes. The teen years are hard enough without a major loss to complicate them.

 Be available and listen

Teenagers don’t always want to hear our advice. Try listening without talking. Listening quietly is often the best thing we can do.

Learn about the grief process

There are some good resources that discuss teenage grief.

 Expect to see changes

Teens naturally react to loss in a variety of ways:

  •  Physical Reactions
  • Emotional Reactions
  • Psychological Reactions
  • Social Reactions
  • Spiritual Reactions

Understand that some feelings are scary

 Help teens express their grief

We learn our most valuable lessons in the classroom of life. Learning to express deep, gut-wrenching feelings is one such lesson. Use this opportunity to teach your teenager to express emotions in positive, non-destructive ways

 Take the team approach

Don’t think you have to do all this by yourself. Invite others to be involved. Seek help from your faith community. Talk to teachers, school counselors, family members, and friends. Try soliciting the help and insights of other teenagers. Check with your local funeral homes, hospice organizations, and telephone directory for professional grief specialists in your area.

 Teenagers can be understood! They are caught in a struggle between being children and becoming adults. They want to be respected and taken seriously. When death or another loss shakes their world, you can be a rock to cling to by listening patiently and showing love and acceptance as you help them work through their grief.

Excerpt from When a Teen Is Grieving from CareNotes


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