Everyone experiences the loss of someone they love during their life. Unfortunately, many of the people who suffer the grief of losing a loved one are children and teenagers. Losing a friend or relative can be particularly trying as a teenager, when life may already seem tumultuous and painful to deal with. Helping teenagers to cope with grief is essential when they experience such an event. The feelings created by the death of someone they know won’t go away, although they can change, so it’s something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. There are many people who can help a teenager during this time, including parents, teachers, counselors and friends. You can assist a teen in your life with their emotions by trying the following ideas.
Make Your Support Clear
Start off by making it clear that your support is available, and that you’re there for them if they want to talk, cry or shout. Even if it appears that your offer isn’t appreciated at first, it’s important that you let them know that they have someone they can go to. They should feel that you will let them have their say, without judgement or dismissal of their feelings. You should acknowledge their thoughts and emotions and be patient and open-minded with them to allow them to express themselves when they’re ready.
Dealing with Emotion
The range of emotions that come with losing a loved one, especially when it’s a member of a teenager’s primary support system, can be overwhelming. They’re unlikely to have experienced anything like it before, and it’s a lot to work through. It can be a frightening time, when they experience a lot of feelings that they haven’t felt before and don’t know how to deal with. There are lots of ways to address this, ranging from art therapy for troubled teens to keeping a journal and seeing a counselor. It’s important to let them know that anything they feel is valid and that there are no right or wrong emotions. They can laugh and cry when they want to, and feel angry or upset.
Filling Empty Roles
The person that a teenager loses might have played several important roles in their life, especially if they were a caregiver. For example, they could have been comforter, disciplinarian or the person they went to for problem-solving. Although you can’t replace the person who died, you can help to fill these roles so that the teenager doesn’t feel that they’re left without a support system. You can also think about other people in the family or family friends who can serve as role models and provide comfort.
One thing that sets teenagers apart from younger children or adults is that they still may be insecure about their identity. The death of a loved one can change who they are and how they and others see them. It’s important to be available so they can talk about their experiences, and acknowledge how the death is affecting them and who they are.