Teen Grief Relief

Teens can be a tricky lot.  Developmentally, they're goal is to separate from you, manage things on their own and to step-out into this world to become self-sufficient.  But what happens when a teen becomes suddenly bereaved by the death of parent, a friend, a sibling or a girlfriend/boyfriend? 

Here are tips to help you guide your teen through grief:

1.  It isn't easy. Nobody sails through grief.  Teens may not say much to you, but you can be certain they are in a world of pain when someone close to them dies. Don't be fooled by a sense of false bravado. Grief causes emotional and physical reactions.  Couple this with a teen's limited coping experience with death, as well as with their fierce need for independence, and you have a mix that can pose big challenges. 

2. Be Proactive. Don't wait for your teen to come to you and request help, assistance or guidance.  That may never happen.  Rather, continue to reach out to your teen and let him/her know you are there and open to talking whenever he/she is ready. 

3. Circle Back. Just because a teen doesn't want to talk about his/her feelings when you ask, don't assume the same will be true the next day or the next or the next.  Circle back and revisit things with him/her.  Don't harass a teen to share feelings, but let him know that you care on a regular basis. 

4. Provide real, tangible support. Teens may not wish to talk much to you.  They may wish to be with their peer group and try to maintain as normal as a routine as possible.  This is okay.  One can only be with their grief for so long.  Breaks, from grief-work, and keeping as normal as a routine as possible can be very helpful.  Don't assume that your teen's friends know what to say or how to help, though.  Provide your teen with books, DVDs, MP3 or iTunes downloads that can help them cope with their grief.  We've provided a few recommendations for books below.

5.  Share your own grief.  Don't try to hide your own grief.  Adults sometimes think that hiding their own grief makes things easier for kids or teens.  This may actually serve to make them question what is wrong with them if they are still feeling sadness and overwhelming grief, when those around them seem to be moving on with their lives.  It is okay to allow your teen to see you cry, grieve and be sad. 

6.  Grief comes in waves. It also lends itself to discussing how sometimes the grief comes in waves, and even though it feels big and overpowering at times, there are other times when things are much more manageable. 

7. Keep rules the same. Adults often think that a grieving teen needs them to become more lax when it comes to rules.  The opposite is likely more true.  Teens need the safety and security that familiar rules provide and they need to know that while many things are changing in their lives, some things will stay the same.

8.  Provide flexibility in some areas. Concentration, focus and the ability to function at the same capacity that one did prior to the loss is comprosmised due to grief.  Grief takes a tremendous amount of energy and it is exhausting.  A teen may need you to help advocate for extensions on assignments and projects. 

9.  Provide physical contact. Some teens are more physically demonstrative of their love than others, but during times of grief, it can be helpful for you to reach out with more hugs, a touch on the shoulder or whatever your teen can tolerate.  Warmth and compassion can say more than words can, at times. 


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