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Helping teens cope with grief

How can you help kids deal with loss?
How can you help kids deal with loss?
Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Everyone has a different way of dealing with grief. Teens are no exception to the rule. In fact, with all the other pressures they face, teens might find grief very difficult to cope with. This may be the first loss for them. Teens who have no experience with loss my find it harder to cope with grief. How can parents help?

Give them leeway.

Back off a little when it comes to expectations. Teens may slack off a little on homework or chores to cope with their grief. Give them a little extra room for error during this difficult time. Adults often take time off from work in periods of grief. Why should teens be any different?

Give them space.

Teens may need more space during periods of grief. Being alone may help them cope with their thoughts and emotions privately. It's natural for people to crave alone time in grief. Quiet reflection often brings awareness and closure.

Open your ears and close your mouth.

Teens may not feel comfortable about talking right away. Let them know that if they want to talk, you will be there for them. When they do talk, just listen. Don't judge or try to fix things instantly. Learning to cope with grief takes time.

Give a gift of memories.

When people close to us pass away, it's helpful to have reminders of them. Ask your teen if there is anything special of Grandma's that she would like to have. Maybe she liked playing with her button collection, or looking through her old pictures. Having these things of Grandma's around keeps memories alive.

Be a story teller.

Once teens are ready to talk about their loved one again, start bringing up stories of things you all did together. Laughing about old times helps teens cope too. Happy memories keep a person alive in our hearts. Enjoying good memories helps us heal after a loss.

Subtly encourage creative expression.

Sometimes it's good to express grief through art or writing. Creative teens might appreciate the gift of a journal or art materials at this time. Creating helps us cope through self expression. Teens can be a bit strong willed so don't even mention what the gift is for. Say it was on sale and you thought they would like it. Leave the door open for this to be their idea.

Make funerals optional.

As I said before, people cope with grief in different ways. Teens may not wish to attend a funeral. Everyone has their own way of saying goodbye. Attending funerals may not be theirs. Don't be offended or think it's disrespectful. Maybe they just aren't ready to say goodbye yet.

Watch for signs of depression.

Teens may exhibit signs that indicate they're unable to cope with grief. They may need counseling. Watch for depression, sleeplessness, withdrawal from friends, activities or family members and academic failure. Some of these may occur initially and then fade as teens learn to cope with a loss. If these symptoms continue past the normal grieving period, it's time to seek professional help. If a teen shows signs of drug or alcohol abuse or suicidal thoughts, get help immediately.


Teens don't always want to open up to parents about grief or other issues. It may help to speak with a therapist or another adult. These people can provide positive feedback without interjecting personal viewpoints. There are specialized therapists who deal only with teens and are sensitive to their needs. Group therapy with other teens learning to cope with grief may also be helpful.


Hospice Net

This article was previously published on Yahoo! by this author.

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