Losses are difficult for adults to navigate. Think about how it must be for a teenager.
They’re already going through so much with their bodies changing and trying to figure out who they are. Losing someone they love in the midst of all of that can be confusing, emotionally disruptive, and detrimental to their mental health and development.
However, parents can easily lessen this load by helping teens through tough losses without hesitation.
It may feel like a rollercoaster at times, but you can help your teen navigate their mental and emotional needs as they process their grief by being patient and implementing the following practices.
Just Be There When They Find Out
It’s going to hit them hard when your teen finds out they’ve lost someone they deeply care about. There won’t be any words that can help your teen feel better at that moment. However, you can let them know they’re not alone in your presence.
Just be there when they find out. Hold them. Let them cry, scream, and let out everything they’re feeling. Soothe them the best you can with affection and reassurance.
Grief starts as soon as they find out about the loss. Making sure they’re not alone in those first moments and days is critical to them feeling supported when they’re inconsolable and can’t communicate what they need.
Prepare Your Teen for the Funeral Service
The funeral and end-of-life rituals are a confirmation that someone has passed on. Your teen may have a hard time with this if they aren’t ready to accept what’s happened. Even if they are ready to say their goodbyes, funerals are extremely emotional and mentally taxing.
You should take some time to prepare your teen for what’s to come. Talk about:
- Who’s coming
- How long it will be
- When the service is
- If a wake is happening
- What they can do if they’re feeling overwhelmed at any point
- What kind of behaviors and communication to expect from people coming
As you prepare your teen for the funeral service, see if they want to be in it if you’re in charge of the arrangements. Being involved, whether as a speaker, pallbearer, or in another way could help them in their grieving process. Bring the idea up but don’t force it on your teen.
Encourage Them to Start a Grief Journal
Losing a family member at a young age is such a deep experience, especially when the person played a huge role in your teen’s life.
This loss can lead to a lot of different emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. Bottling them up is common because they're so hard to process that shoving them down seems easier. However, it’s so much healthier to express what they're going through.
Encourage your teen to start a grief journal if they’re having trouble opening up about what they’re going through in their grieving process. They’ll have a safe place to express their deepest thoughts, experiences, and emotions. This will hopefully help them better understand themselves and healthily move through each stage of grief.
Purchase a journal and pen that matches their personality. Write a loving note inside the cover and gift it to them.
Switch Up Their Routine
Getting back into their normal routine can feel like a chore when your teen is working through a tough loss. Several outcomes can occur. For one, their old routine may trigger memories or feelings of grief. Or, they might also sink deeper and deeper into their grief if they try to hop back into their old life like the loss didn’t happen.
Switching up their routine isn’t a bad idea. Small changes that focus on improving their wellness can help them feel better and be more productive even in the middle of such an intense struggle. Consider incorporating these changes:
- Encourage them to read daily
- Meditate daily with your teen
- Help them redecorate their room
- Commit to a consistent workout plan
- Make them a balanced breakfast every morning
- Make sure they get seven hours of sleep every night
- Weave in face-to-face time with someone they trust and love every day
Getting back into their old routine may hurt your teen more than help them. Switch some things up to help them feel motivated, energetic, and productive again.
Realize When Your Teen is Slipping Deeper into Their Grief
The hope is that your teen will navigate their grief process healthily and come out of it a stronger person. But a tough loss can take anyone down to a deep dark place that leaves them feeling hopeless. Recognize when this is happening to your teen so that you can interject and redirect them on a path to healing.
For instance, let’s say you feel your teen is slipping into depression. You can support them through their depression by reinforcing a healthy parent-teen relationship with practices like:
- Doing family activities consistently;
- Praising your teen when they’re doing well
- Being aware of and monitoring their behaviors to find ways to better support them
- Giving them a chance to make their own decisions, even when it comes to their grieving process
Family and individual therapy can also be incredibly helpful when you see your teen slipping deeper into their grief. Find a therapist who specializes in helping families and children going through a significant loss to get the best help for your teen in this unique circumstance.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. So, let your teen grieve in their own way, as long as it’s not self-destructive. But do this while staying right by their side and supporting them every step of the way. The advice above will help you support your teen through a tough loss while also giving them the space to navigate grief through their own eyes, mind, and heart.
Meet the Author
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “City of Trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. When not writing she is a part time wedding planner and spending time with her nephews. And yes, she does love all kinds of potatoes!