Teen Grief and Loss - Getting Over Separation and Divorce

Separation or divorce, the difficulties for teens. 

Grief can happen if you have lost a parent through separation or divorce. If you have experienced a relationship break up in your family, this can be just as difficult as if someone has died.  Life can be so cruel sometimes.

You might experience any or all of these things: 

  • You miss the parent who has left the home as you don't see them as often as you did or in some cases not at all.  
  • There may be a lot of anger and hurt around if one parent is feeling betrayed.  
  • You may be feeling betrayed and angry yourself.  
  • The parent you are still living with may be bad-mouthing the other parent who you still love and this is very confusing for you and you don't know what to feel.  
  • Getting to know your mother's or father's new partners can be really painful.  All you want is for life to be the same as it was.  
  • You may have had to move house, change schools, leave the area where your friends are.
  • You may have brothers or sisters who are also upset and not behaving as they normally do.  The family upheaval affects everyone.  
  • You might also lose contact with grandparents or family from one side of the family if there is a lot of animosity about the separation or divorce.  
Teenage girl feeling angry, sad or frustrated when her parents get divorced.

Symptoms of grief you might feel after the break up of your parents: 

  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Eating too much
  • Feeling moody 
  • Not wanting to talk to anyone
  • Confusion

See also the Emotions of Grief on this website.  

Here are 10 ways for you to survive after a break up in your family:

  1. Understand that everyone is coping with the grief of a break up. Your parents are grieving the loss of each other, and you are grieving the loss of a parent and your family as you knew it. 
  2. Understand that the grieving process can take a while so give it time and gradually you will accept the new situation. 
  3. Do not blame yourself for the parental split.  Many teens feel it was their fault because they were not as helpful or polite to their parents as they should have been.  Broken relationships are caused by problems within that relationship.  When your parents split up it is never your fault.  
  4. Remember the parent you see less of these days loves you just the same and misses you too.  
  5. There may be another family involved and you may have to adapt to sharing parents with other children.  Realise that it is difficult for those children too and if they are not as nice to you as they might be, try to understand they are also confused and upset.  Later they may well become good friends. You are going through the same thing.  
  6. Try to understand that couples do not enter into the complexities of splitting up easily.  The decision making could have been going on for months. Your parents will have had much heartache too in making this life shattering change. 
  7. Try not to be too hard on them and blame them as they are also going through a difficult time.  They will feel a failure, guilty and may be facing lots of financial issues as well.  
  8. Remember the best friends you used to have who you rarely see now?  Friendships change and this is what has happened to your parents.  It does not mean that they love you any less, only that their friendship became too difficult to maintain.  Happy ever after stories in fairy tales rarely mimic real life.
  9. Talk to a friend, teacher, grandparent or to your parents about how you feel.  Do not harbour resentment but discuss your problems.  Talking clears the air and helps everone to know how you feel.  
  10. If you feel really bad, don't be afraid to ask to see a doctor or a counselor, ring a help line or join an online forum.  There are a lot of phone numbers and websites where you can find help at the bottom of this page.    

Meeting Your Parent's New Girlfriend or Boyfriend

  • You will need all your patience and courage to meet Mum's new boyfriend or Dad's new girlfriend.  The first reaction is just to dislike them, be jealous, be rude, but this does not help anyone.  
  • Quietly and politely take in what is happening and maybe talk to a friend who has been in this situation. Apparently 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce, so many of your friends are in the same boat.  
  • Make an effort to get to know the new person in your parent's life.  There must be a reason they love them.  Perhaps they are actually a nice person, and it is most likely not their fault that your parents split up.  
  • Eventually, you may find that you have two extra adults in your life who can be your friends, time will tell. 
  • Some teens have actively tried to spoil their parents new relationships.  This does no one any good as it creates so many more problems so try to be accepting even if this is very hard at first.  
  • Would you have preferred unhappy parents staying together?  
  • Going moodily to your bedroom and banging doors helps no one.  Carry on with your work, hobbies and friends and visit relatives.  You will be suprised one day when you realise that you have accepted your new way of life.
  • Many teens have told me they now have two homes, more birthday parties and Christmases. They get on well with all the extra family members and life can be good again.  It certainly isn't easy and you will need time to adjust but it will get easier.  
  • You can do it,  just remember your parents still love you and none of this was your fault.

Free Help and Resources for Teen Grief and Loss

Call to talk to someone in person: 

Within USA

Call Teenline on 310-855-4673  

In the UK 

Childline 0800 1111

In Australia: 

Call the Samaritans on 135247

Websites and Text Services

If you're in the USA you can text a counselor free:  Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

In the UK - contact Youth Access  

International: 

Reachout.com  which is written for teens by teens where you can chat and message other people with similar problems.  

Or join an online support group: 

http://kidsaid.com/k2k_support.html

Related Read: 

This book - Divorce Is Not The End of the World  - is written by teens for teens and deals with the grief and loss of families splitting up and how to survive.  They deal with topics like guilt, anger and fear and how to cope with blended families.  Zoe and Evan have even added more information to the book 10 years later so they can look back and see how far they have come.  

Related Pages: 

Relationship Grief

Books on Grief for Teenagers

> > Teen Grief and Loss - Coping with Divorce and Separation

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