Teenagers are at that age where they are not exactly young children but not adults either. Grief during this period comes at a time when they are trying to discover who they are. With the loss of someone close who helped to define their place in the world, they can feel lost.
Grief is a process with many steps: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Each stage can be as short or as long as the person needs to deal with what they are feeling. Teens may have to deal with death when it comes to friends: sudden accidents, suicides, murders. They may see death in this capacity more often but that doesn’t mean that they have mastered how to handle it.
Here are some tips to help your teen or the teen child of a friend deal with grief.
* Sit and listen – Often that is what teenagers want: an ear. When a friend or family member dies, sit with them and wait for them to talk to you. Any words can seem inadequate at the time, but listening speaks volumes to their situation.
* Don’t measure their grief against your own – Adults have lived longer and often experience situations with more clarity than teenagers. You may pass from denial to anger quickly or slower than they. Never tell a child to hide their grief or “get over it.” They have to develop their grieving process just like you do.
* Allow them to express their feelings – Asking someone to be strong often says to them “stop crying.” Crying is one of the ways that we show our pain at the passing of someone we love. Even if it's anger, allow them to discuss it with you and do it openly to get through their grief.
* Let them be children – As a parent, we are often too caught up in our own grief to help our child. We ask them to be strong so we can feel less of the burden. It’s not fair. We are the ones who must find a way to grieve and be there for our families. Your teen is still a child and not ready to handle adult responsibilities for the entire family.
* Strengthen the support system – Since you may also be grieving the loss of a family member, find support for all of you. Reach out to church groups, your pastor, grief counselors and the like to bolster you and your teen during this challenging time.