Adolescents and Grief

Adolescence is a time of great change in the life of a young person. Teenagers struggle with issues of identity and independence, as they try to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. When a death occurs their life can become very difficult

It is important to give adolescents clear and accurate information at the time of a death. They may wish to take an active part in  funeral arrangements or to mark the death in their own way. Involving teens in the rituals can help them on their grief journey, but treat them in a manner appropriate to their age.

Unlike young children, adolescents fully understand the concept of death; they know that death is final and inevitable.  However, they often have an exaggerated view of their own invulnerability – ‘it will never happen to me’. As their life goals and dreams start coming into focus, the concept of death can appear both threatening and remote.

Adolescent grief may show itself as: confusion, withdrawal, crying, feelings of emptiness, loneliness, disturbances in sleep and eating patterns and exhaustion

Supporting a bereaved teen

Each young person grieves in their own way, so their is no set formula to help them cope. Adults who are willing and able to listen to teens, who accept their feelings as real and important and who model openness in discussing issues of life and death can be a resource to young people as they try to cope with loss and bereavement.

Please also see our Factsheet on Adolescent Loss 

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See also the  Candle Project UK which  has good information on their website about young people and grief with a list of helpful leaflets here.

Grief Encounter UK has a great site for young people including a Grief Guide for Teenagers.

Watch here a full presentation by Dr. Elaine Kasket on supporting a bereaved teen in the digital age.

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Supporting parents, guardians and professionals who care for grieving children and young people is kindly supported by
© The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network - 2013