Grief expert, Elizabeth Postle, (RN, HV, FWT), explains how to help your adolescent cope with grief and loss. It might be the loss of a parent or sibling, a grandparent or a friend at school. It might be a pet. Whatever the loss, teenage grief is tough, as they are coping with so many changes in their life during those years.
Teens and grief are a tricky combination. They may already have challenges keeping up with peer groups, school pressures, coming to terms with their sexuality, swinging back and forth from adult to child. The clashes with parents over late nights and homework not done can become mountains instead of molehills. Career prospects, and wondering what is in store for them in life. The list is endless. Mood swings due to hormonal changes are inevitable too.
The loss of a parent, sibling or friend at this difficult time can be overwhelming for teens, as they now have to face up to their own mortality and the grief is a huge burden.
Losing a sister, brother or parent is a huge loss as they are the people they know best. They may have known the teenager all their life and shared the good as well as the bad times. It can seem as if a major part of their life is missing.
Teenagers may find that friends are avoiding them when they are grieving and don’t realize that it is because they are embarrassed. Friends don’t know what to say and are scared of upsetting them.
Teens are faced with everyone around them getting on with life as if nothing has happened.
When faced with the massive loss of someone close to them dying, it can seem as if the world is against your teenage child.
Explain to them that a lot of their friends at school who seem to be happy and laughing as usual may have their own family problems too, but most try to put on a brave face, many may be trying to cheer them up.
Let the staff at college or school know what has happened, they may have counsellors available for your teen to talk to.
Support by talking and sharing is far better than confrontation for everyone. Often teens will respond well to being asked to get on with their life. They will make an effort to do well for the loved one, as they would have wanted them to do.
Recommend that your teens read my pages on grief written specially for the teens themselves - Teen Grief
Every family situation is different and special to you. Each loss is an individual tragedy whether it is a friend or family member. The loved one can never be forgotten, we just learn to cope by taking each day at a time and getting through it as best we can. Supporting other family members as we go helps us too.
Yes, it does get easier and one day your teenagers will start to remember the lost one with pleasure not sadness.
If your adolescent is still having trouble coming to terms with their grief and loss, they might find this online forum a help:
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