Facing Death:Teens and Grief


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan, MA, MT-BC, CHPCA

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

​When tragedy strikes the world of a young person, the resulting feelings, images and thoughts can be overwhelming. Adolescence includes many losses as teens grow out of childhood and into adulthood.

The following concerns can be experienced by teens struggling with the death of a loved one.

• What if someone else I know dies?
• Will I die the same way? When?
• Did I do or say something that helped promote the death in any way?
• How can I go to school and hold myself together? How can I help with the pain my family is feeling when my pain is overwhelming? Who will I turn to now?
• I loved him/her. Why am I so angry with him/her?
• I laughed today ... now I feel guilty. Does this mean I am bad and have no feelings?
• If we are going to die anyway, what’s the use of living?

Here are some ideas for supporting your teen after the death of a loved one:

• Accept and acknowledge all his feelings. Encourage him to express his grief. Everyone grieves in their own way and time - there are no right or wrong ways to grieve.
• Ask about her concerns. Let her know you are there to listen when she needs to talk. Don’t take it personally if your teen opens up more with friends than with you. Remember that communication requires patience.
• Encourage your young person to take care of himself – eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, talk with someone he trusts.
• Help her discover personal strengths that can see her through hard times.
• Ask if he would like a hug. You’d be surprised how many young people who appear to push you away are the first to respond with “yes”.
• Assist with finding creative ways to remember the deceased.
• Support the telling and re-telling of stories about the loved one.
• Watch for unhealthy responses, i.e. extreme withdrawal, self-destructive behaviors, drug or alcohol use. Seek professional help if needed.
• Sometimes all you need to do is just be there. Your presence is very meaningful.

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