Pre-teens and teens understand that death is final, but may be in denial that it actually happened. They may also think their behaviour caused it and can feel tremendous guilt as a result. They may be afraid that the other parent will die, feel isolated or abandoned and experience emotional turmoil, shock and anxiety. Their grief may take the form of regressive behaviour, fluctuating moods, nightmares, aggression, difficulties concentrating, issues at school and withdrawal.
How to Help
Offer comfort and allow the regressive behaviour and mood swings. Be open to talking and listening, and answer their questions truthfully. Offer physical contact, encourage creative and physical outlets and find peer support groups for them to participate in. Give them a choice about their involvement in mourning rituals. Check in with them often, giving them reassurance that you are there to answer questions and support them. For example asking, “How are you feeling about being involved in mom’s funeral?” or by asking, “Is there something you would like to do which is meaningful to you as we celebrate mom’s life?”