Teenage years, under the best of circumstances, are challenging. During these years teens are trying to separate from their families and establish their own identities and place in the world. Experiencing a loss at this time is naturally overwhelming. Because of this search for independence, teens often look to their peers for support. But they may not be able to find help among their friends especially if their friends have not experienced a loss themselves. They may also try to hide their grief so as not to be different or pitied.
Most teens understand that death is permanent and so we need not worry about what words to use, as we do with younger children, but we do need to help them understand their emotions and support them through this difficult time. They may be expressing a wide variety of emotions such as guilt, responsibility and anger. Therefore we need to listen to them, talk to them and guide them.
What might be helpful:
Talking and laughing with friends and family
Staying physically active
Telling their story over and over again
Knowing that it’s okay to cry
Having limits set that are firm but reasonable
Joining a support group with other teens
Knowing that adults in their life are aware of their loss