Teen years are already tumultuous years, and the bereaved teen needs special attention. Under ordinary circumstances, teenagers go through many changes in their body image, behavior, attachments and feelings. As they break away from their parents to develop their own identities, conflicts often arise within the family system. Life becomes even more complex when a father, mother or other significant person dies — a shattering experience faced by one child in every ten before the age of eighteen. While people in all age groups struggle with such losses, teenagers face particularly painful adjustments following the death of a loved one.
Living With Healthy Grief
Talking with Teens about Death - Parenting Again - University of Illinois Extension
Megan never thought she would have to deal with death, at least not at this age. Her older sister Linda was a picture of health and vitality — until her car collided with a semi on the way back to college, and she was killed instantly. Extremely popular and intelligent, Linda seemed almost invincible to year-old Megan. On the flip side, Tony wasn't surprised when he received word that his dad had died after struggling for five years with lung cancer. He'd seen his dad endure chemotherapy, radiation treatment, hospitals, tests, tests and more tests. In the end, his dad's death seemed almost inevitable.
Talking with Teens about Death
Teenagers understand that death is a fact - it is real, final, and irreversible. But, knowing how to cope with the feelings of loss can be a different matter. Some try to be strong and independent, handling it on their own. Some reach out to others for comfort and support. How do you help a teen dealing with grief?
Grief and loss are often themes in young adult literature. From classic novels such as Old Yeller to more current popular books and films such as The Fault in Our Stars and even the Hunger Games series, death and grief are front and center. Sometimes, as in the horrific Overland Park, Kansas shooting on Sunday, death and grief escape the adolescent's fictional world, becoming a real-life experience. Yet as a group, adolescents are often neglected or disenfranchised grievers. Excellent resources exist for grieving children, and grief support groups are generally developed with adults in mind.