When you think about teenagers one of the first things that comes to mind is EMO-tions. Teenagers can be emotional hormonal beings on a normal day, so how will your teenager be when they are grieving? When talking about supporting grieving teens it is hard to pin down a step by step guide on how to do. All humans grieve differently and teens are no different.
Really know teens to best support their grief.
Teens can be moody, teens can be insecure teens can be insightful. We talked about the emotional nature of teenagers but they express those emotions so differently based on personality, life experiences and more. Some are very open emotionally and show their feelings outwardly. Many teens are known to have outbursts of emotions especially toward parents. Others tend to shy away from their parents and only show emotions with friends.
Whether you are a parent, a mentor or a peer supporting a grieving teenager it is so important to know them. All humans long to be known by others. Teenagers especially want to be known and seen and acknowledged for who they are. This is a perfect time to really try to understand who your teen is and what their needs are. If you are unsure, ask them. Learn what makes them feel secure and as if they can freely and safely grieve with you.
Just Be There For Your Grieving Teenager
It’s always a learning process and may be a great set up for building new connections with your teen while you support them in their grief. Once you know what feels supportive to them. Do they want to talk, do they want to just sit with you?
Whatever it is, simply be there for them. Teenagers just want to be acknowledged for who they are and who they are becoming. If you can sit with them and let them know that whatever they are feeling is ok. Everyone grieves differently and just being available to them and compromising so that their grief support needs are being met, you will have the best results.
Give Them The Freedom to Grieve in Their Own Way
If you are a parent wanting to support grieving teenagers remember that at this stage in their lives the social aspect is everything. Teens may be more shut off with parents and not show their true grief. Unfortunately parents might get more of the anger when it comes to grief. If this is the case, do your best to be patient. Encourage them to spend time with close friends who they trust and encourage them to talk to them. Encourage your teen to find a support group that they feel comfortable with. You as a parent or close family member will always be an important part of their support system even if they do not acknowledge it.
Grief Can Change the Way They View Themselves
The teenage years are when boys and girls turn into young men and women. They are trying to figure themselves out. Finding out what they are good at, how they want to express themselves and just who they are as humans. This may be one of the most defining times in their lives and when teens are dealing with grief and the death of a loved one, especially if it is a parent, sibling or close family member it can surely impact the way they look at themselves and can create an abrupt change to who they feel they are.
Having patience and understanding is the best way to support your grieving teenager. Teens age 16-18 understand life and death and grief and experience very similar to adults. Everyone is unique and longs to be known and supported. Creating an amazing support system where a teenager can feel safe in expressing their feelings is the key to long term healing.
Check out our blog for more helpful articles on grief.