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The Most Compassionate Ways to Guide a Teen Through the Grieving Process

Category: 

Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Jan 31, 2017

The Most Compassionate Ways to Guide a Teen Through the Grieving Process

Teenagers are frequently stereotyped for their volatile emotions, but there's some truth to the trope. From twelve or thirteen to seventeen or eighteen – and sometimes younger or older, of course – the mind is still developing, and the emotions are often all over the place. Every teenager is different, that goes without saying, but the point is that it's a difficult road to travel for teens and the parents of teens. At a time of life when getting a bad grade, breaking up with someone, and fighting with friends are highly emotional tribulations, dealing with a death is a sudden introduction to a real tragedy. Even if a teenager experienced the loss of a loved one during her or his younger years, encountering it during a complicated stage of development is altogether different. To navigate through the grieving process, a grieving teen needs guiding hands and compassion.

Recognize that Teens Grieve Differently

Although grief itself is universal, the ways people feel, express, and process it are not. While everyone goes through some version of the traditional grieving process, it's a personal, unique emotion. In teens, the signs of bereavement are different from adults because teens have not yet learned all the coping skills they need to process it maturely. A teenager may not be able to concentrate. S/he may retreat in a bid to avoid the issue or to avoid talking about it. It's not uncommon for teens to feel jealous of other people who have what they just lost, either.

Keep in Touch with Your Teen's Teachers and Mentors

It's also common for a grieving teen to suddenly behave in an uncharacteristic way. That often shows up at school. It may result in behavioral problems, such as fights with peers or insubordination to teachers and other authority figures. Your teen's grades might start to slip, or s/he might exhibit signs of depression at school or during extracurricular activities. Talk to the teachers, principles, and mentor's in your teen's life. Let them know about the loss, your teen's relationship to the deceased, and any other pertinent details. Communicating with each other is the best way to help your teen.

Be There to Listen

Listening is the most helpful and compassionate way to guide a teen through the grieving process. Don't force the issue. Don't force your teenager to speak. Your job is to let her or him know you're there. S/he will come to you, or to someone with whom s/he feels comfortable talking. Remember, talking is the most important part.

Fostering an open relationship with your teen is the best route. Be as transparent as possible. Grieve together, as a family.