Death of a Teenager - How to Cope with the Grief

If you are suffering grief for the death of a teenager, you have my deepest sympathy. I hope that some of the information on these pages may give you a glimmer of hope. Many of the general pages on how to deal with grief may also be useful to you.

The death of a teenager, for whatever reason is a tragedy. Parents feel particularly guilty when it is an accident or suicide. You have to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t your fault. You allowed them the freedom to live and grow. You only gave them this life.

Just because parents bring children into the world they do not own them. They are on loan from the universe. They have to be allowed a certain amount of freedom and be allowed to grow up with an element of risk.

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Grieve, but also celebrate the life of your teenager

Remember if you’re grieving it’s because your teenager was loved. No-one can hope for more than that.

Celebrate the life and talk about the memories. There will be tears, but there will be lots of laughter and anecdotes too. You have to be happy for the life they had. Do not be scared to talk happily about your teenager and celebrate the life he or she had and the friends they shared. If a birthday arrives, don’t sit and mope. Give the family a lovely meal, invite the friends. For more help see “Grief and the Holidays”.

Make a happy life now for yourself and other family members. Forgive yourselves, grieve, cry but then wake up!

Remember the wonderful years with a happy child. The holidays, family meals, parties. Learn to celebrate the life they had, the love you had for them.

Brian's story - hope following the death of a teenager after a long illness 

Brian (names have been changed) was only 7 years old when he started to become listless. He had no energy and refused to go to school. The doctor told his mother that it was probably due to change of school and country, as they had recently emigrated as a family. 

After a few months, the moved back to be near to the old schools and their extended family to see if this helped. However, sadly at 9 years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The surgery and chemotherapy all seemed to work well and life for the family settled down again. However, following one of his yearly checks, Brian had devastating news that a tumour had returned. This time treatment could only be for pain management and Brian had 18 months before he died at almost 17 years.

For his parents, and his younger brother and sister it was still a huge shock. They’d coped for years knowing he was ill, but he’d still been to school, been a normal teenager and life had gone on normally.

Work for the parents, and school for the siblings helped them through the next difficult months, along with support from their extended family. The Mum came to me one day and said “I don’t know what to do”. I asked what she meant. She said “Brian would be 18 tomorrow”. I told her the best thing would be to cook the family’s favourite meal, invite a couple of Brian’s best friends and celebrate his life. I gave her chocolates and wine to help with the celebrations.

Two days later I got a big hug and a smile. It had all gone so well. All the family had been fearful of mentioning the subject. I gave them permission to celebrate his life, to talk about the fun times, share anecdotes. He was a kind, studious, handsome boy, a life well worth celebrating.

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Don't blame yourself for teenage accidents

The major cause of death for teenage boys is accidents. They think they are indestructible. Skate boards, bicycles, surfing, rushing everywhere, so full of life. Many parents have the urge to wrap them in cotton wool, keep them safe.

All parents can do is point out the dangers, give advice on safety gear and let them be free.

Teenage Suicide - again don't blame yourself

Life can become very difficult for late teens and young adults. Unreasonable expectations of becoming fighter pilots or wealthy businessmen, or actresses or fashion models are dashed. Reality steps in when trying to study for exams, find a job or get into university.

They have the pressures of first love and being accepted by the “in” group. Adulthood is looking scary. Peer group pressure is paramount at this stage. Fear of failing and anxieties about being accepted mount up.

Parents can be aware of trouble and can try to reach out to their son or daughter, but when the worst happens and a suicide occurs, whether drugs related or not, the guilt can be overwhelming. However, it is not your fault.

It takes years of training and experience to recognise teenage depression in an individual. Even consultant psychiatrists get it wrong many times.

Parents can only do what they think is right at the time.

Seascape to calm the grief of losing a teenager

Death of a teenager through self-harm

Smoking, drinking, drugs, self-harm or anorexia. These are all life threatening. Whenever a family member dies in circumstances of self-harm, the grief can be very strong. There is a lot of guilt. You must forgive yourself. You could only do what seemed right at the time.

The individual may have had many reasons which we couldn’t have understood. Even specialists have had difficulties in recognising these types of problems and how serious they have become. Society is a cruel place for kind, sensitive children. You can only do what you think is best at the time.

Related Pages: 

Read more about Teen Suicide

Grief and Guilt - How to Stop Blaming Yourself

Books on Grief for Parents who Have Lost a Child

> > Death of a Teenager


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Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.


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