Teens may experience denial and a fear of other loved ones dying – or become more aware of their own mortality. They may try to rigidly control their feelings because they think showing emotion is a sign of weakness. They may experience conflicting desires for dependence and independence and feel self-conscious about being different from their peers. Grief can manifest itself as mood swings, withdrawal, hiding feelings, acting out, sleep disturbances, impulsive or high-risk behaviour and changes in eating, school performance, peer groups and more.
How to Help
Be patient, offer comfort and be open to talking without putting pressure on them to express their feelings. Respect their need for privacy. Encourage self-expression through art, music, drama, sports, etc. Give them choices about how they will mourn, find peer support groups, watch for high-risk behaviours and share your grief with them. If they won’t talk to you or to family, encourage relationships with other supportive adults. Check in with them, reassuring them that there are people they can talk to. For example, “There are always people available who you can talk to.” “Would it be helpful for us to brainstorm people who you might be comfortable talking with?”