Losing a family member, friend, mentor or other loved ones is never easy and the grief that follows can be confusing and challenging to navigate. For teens, as this may be their first experience of loss, they might not yet have the skills to cope in a healthy way. As a parent, here are a few ways that you can guide and support them through this difficult time.
One of the most important things to do when helping your teen cope with loss is to allow them time and space to grieve. Grief is an individual experience, however simply telling your teen to “stay strong” or “move on” without allowing them to express their emotions—even negative ones—can lead to mental health struggles later such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Help Your Teen Understand Grief
Because grief can look different for each of us (even in the same circumstance), it can often be a confusing and frightening experience. Therefore, help your teen to understand that any unusual feelings and emotions felt during a time of grief are normal. Help them to understand that grief can take many forms including physical reactions, negative thoughts, strong emotions and spiritual reactions.
Be Upfront and Encourage Questions
While you may be tempted to try to protect your teen, do not lie about the reality of the loss they’ve experienced. Instead, be open and honest with them about what has happened. Furthermore, encourage them to ask questions and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” instead of fabricating easy answers.
Be available and build support networks
More than anything, teens need to feel supported during a time of loss. While they might express their grief by distancing themselves or acting out, they undoubtedly need to know that their parents or guardians are there for them. In addition, encourage them to reach out to other support networks they might have—friends, other family members, teachers or guidance counselors. Help your teen know they are not alone.
Feature image Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon