At Sundance Canyon Academy, we hear from many parents who are worried about their teens after a recent loss. Following the death of a loved one, teens often struggle with processing their grief – which manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes grief, sometimes anger, and more. We are writing on the topic today to help parents understand what to expect from your teen when they are grieving and when to seek additional help.
Losing a loved one is always going to be hard. Whether they were sick for a long time or their death was sudden, the loss will still hurt. Following the death of a friend or family member, we start to deal with grief. Though grief shows up in similar ways for all of us, the direct effects are more individual.
Dealing with Grief
If your teen has recently lost a friend or family member, you can expect them to grieve. This will be a difficult process, especially if the loss affects your other family members as well. Keep in mind that loss hits everyone a little differently, and it won’t be the same for everyone in your household. Encourage your family to remember that everyone will have individual feelings and that you won’t express your feelings the same way.
Here are a few tips to help your teen through their grief:
1. Talk to them about death and loss
Your teen may or may not want to talk about how they’re feeling. Some teens love talking to someone else who knew the deceased so that they can relate. Others don’t want to talk about their feelings and shut down at the mere mention of death. Your teen may also shift from one to the other as time passes.
No matter the situation, make time to talk to your teen about death and loss. Let them know that you will be there for them through the pain and that you will support them however you can. Give them space to talk about their feelings if they are up for it.
2. Teach them some positive coping strategies
Many teens don’t yet know how to cope with the deep pain of losing someone you love. So, some teens turn to unhealthy coping strategies like drinking, using drugs, or having unsafe sex as a way to dull the pain. Unless they specifically learn some positive coping strategies, they might accidentally slip into the negative ones.
Some positive coping strategies include:
Creative activities like art, music, or writing. Many teens have trouble expressing their emotions verbally, but they can express how they feel through creative means.
Physical activities that exert energy. If your teen has pent-up anger that they need to release, physical activities can help with that release. Trying to keep all of that energy and anger under control all of the time doesn’t work well. It can lead to anger outbursts and inappropriate aggressive behavior.
After the death of a loved one, teens need an outlet to vent their anger and energy appropriately. Activities like running, swimming, and playing sports also release endorphins that will help them feel a little better.
Positive hobbies that give them something to focus on. Developing positive hobbies can give your teen something to focus on and look forward to. When grieving, it’s easy to get bogged down by sadness or to start feeling hopeless. Some teens start to slip into depression after the loss of a loved one. If your teen has a hobby that they enjoy, it can give them something to grab onto when they’re struggling.
3. Bring them to therapy
After losing a friend or family member, many teens benefit from seeing a therapist. Talking to someone who can help them process what they’re feeling and understand that it’s OK to feel that way is very helpful. Therapists can also watch for signs of depression or substance abuse as your teen moves through their grief.
Getting additional help for your grieving teen
If you are worried that your teen is taking the death of a loved one too hard, you may need additional help. It is entirely normal for your teen to be sad or struggle with their emotions while grieving. You should expect their temperament to change slightly during this time, and they will fluctuate between good days and bad days. Sometimes, it will even seem like good moments and bad moments.
However, keep an eye out for signs of depression, substance abuse, reckless behavior, and anger. If your teen is not processing their feelings well, they can develop mental health problems that could become problematic if left unaddressed.
If your teen son is showing signs of mental health trouble, he may benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school. He will still attend classes and receive high school credits while at the school, but he will also work with trained therapists to address the root of his problems. By addressing his emotions and processing the loss, he can learn to better cope with life in the future. Contact us today for more information.