How to help a teenager through grief

July 26, 2016

Teenage years are always full of emotion, ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative, meaning that there always going to be ups and downs. However, losing someone close can make those years even more difficult, and without the right support it can feel as if their world has stopped in it’s tracks. So, how can you help to support them?

Just like adults, teenagers will experience a cocktail of emotions when they lose someone close. These emotions can include sadness, guilt, shock, anxiety, despair, depression and even relief – for example if their loved one had been unwell for a long time.

However, teenagers can often experience emotions far more intensely than adults and may struggle to envisage a point where their grief begins to let up.

If this is a teenager’s first major loss then they may be experiencing many of these feelings for the first time which can be particularly hard. They also may never have even heard the terms ‘bereavement’, ‘grief’ or ‘mourning’ before so it is important that they understand that it is entirely normal to feel the way they do.

Teenagers often have an understanding of what death is but have not yet developed the coping mechanisms that an adult would have and this sometimes means that they can struggle to channel their feelings and frustrations. So it is therefore not uncommon for a teenager to become withdrawn, angry or unruly following the loss of someone close.

When it comes to helping a teenager through a period of grief it’s important that you support them as much as you can. Many adults will, with no ill will, ask a teenager to “be strong” and “keep going” for their surviving family or friends or to honour their loved one’s memory, but this can sometimes be too much pressure for an emotionally fragile young adult to handle and can even disrupt their grieving process.

Teenagers will feel a need to explore their emotions about their recent loss, but you should be aware that this might not mean that they are ready or comfortable to talk to you, or even other family members about how they are feeling and they may be more willing to speak to friends or outside ‘neutrals’.

That said, their peers may also have never experienced grief and may not be able to relate to their feelings so may shrug off or simply ignore what they have to say. This is why it can often be beneficial to involve support staff at their school, many of whom will have had training with dealing with grief and will be able to give an outsider’s perspective, as well as providing a neutral space for the teenager to talk about their feelings.

Grief is a complex situation and it will vary from person to person, regardless of age, but it is important that the teenager knows that there is nothing to be ashamed of and by showing understanding and love you can help them through what can be a turbulent time.

If you are worried about a young adult and how they are coping with grief then there are many support groups where young people can go to share their stories and find support in other individuals who are transitioning through the grieving process. Hope Again is a national charity that provides support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone close to them dies. Click here to find out more and to find a group local to you.

For further advice on understanding the grieving process and bereavement, please click here to read our article on coping with the loss of a loved one.

For help and advice on organising a funeral, please contact us on 0151 228 3900, or leave us a message through our contact us page by clicking here.