Helping Your Teen Deal with Grief or Loss

Posted on by Youth for Christ

Whether it’s facing a tragic event or the loss of a loved one, teens learn to navigate grief and loss the way all of us do— by living through it. Though teens may appear to handle it well, they still need our help. While there’s no one formula for healthy grieving, keep in mind three important things as you offer support:

1. It’s normal for teens to experience a wide range of emotions. Are they moody, angry, lethargic or anxious? Like adults, different emotions are part of the grieving process and are considered normal responses to grief (with the exception of selfdestructive behaviors). Because many teens have not dealt with a significant loss before, help them process their emotions by encouraging open lines of communication and validating their feelings. Follow their lead and allow them to express emotions as they feel comfortable. Some teens have trouble sharing their feelings and mask their true emotions. Journaling can be a positive way to share thoughts that teens would have difficulty expressing otherwise.

2. The best way to offer support is to “companion” them. Companioning someone means walking beside them through their grief, listening to their thoughts and acknowledging their presence. Avoid offering pat answers and minimizing their feelings. Acknowledge that grief takes years, and be patient with them as they navigate this difficult journey. Companioning them is the best way to offer support through their loss.

3. Let them work through the big questions. Youth who’ve experienced a dramatic change in their lives begin to ask questions like “How could this happen?” and “Why me?” Although not all youth are ready to handle deep philosophical questions, some need to struggle with issues of death and the meaning of life before they can find peace. Look at this opportunity as a continuing conversation about beliefs, heaven, worldview and faith. Allow teens to talk through these complex issues and help guide them toward truth.

For teens, walking through grief may lead to a better understanding of their identity and what life is really about. As they work through their loss, they will develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their faith.

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