When dealing with teenagers, grief is almost impossible to avoid. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect and claim more lives going into 2021, adolescents will still have a hard time getting through the worst of times. Whether it is a grandparent, a family friend, or even sometimes someone their own age that they’ve lost to COVID, the loss can leave a devastating impact on teens.
Too often, children and teenagers are made to feel as though grief is a negative emotion which should be avoided, glossed over, or quickly rushed past. However, grief is a natural and very necessary process that if avoided, can cause a large amount of damage to a developing brain in the long term.
It is often hard to know how to help someone with grief, as the process of dealing with loss can manifest differently in many people; and with teenagers this becomes even more difficult to navigate. The teenage brain is already a minefield of developing hormones, even without loss and grief added to it. Detailed here below are 7 simple starting points to help any teen who is dealing with loss or grief. Not one process works for everyone, but it is surely somewhere to start.
1: ACKNOWLEDGE – First and foremost, acknowledge their feelings. Teenagers are constantly searching for validation and acceptance, and this is no different with grief. If they are angry, validate their anger. “If they are confused, agree with the confusion that can stem from loss. And most importantly, if they don’t know how to feel…do not give them answers. Sit with them in their confusion, emptiness, or anger” says Rosina Berge, a psychology blogger at 1 Day 2 write and Origin Writings.
2: WAIT – Teenagers are often faulted for rushing in life or jumping to conclusions, but grief, especially when experienced for the first time will do just the opposite to their brains. Be patient as they try to figure out how to react. They will look to their peers, the outside world, and even celebrities to assess how they believe they ‘should’ be acting, or how they wish to be perceived. Sadly, not even grief can fully conquer the teenage need to be accepted and have their actions and reactions approved by their peers.
3: ASK FOR HELP – A simple point which needs little explanation. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers. If the teenager themselves is not ready for a ‘therapist’ type figure, going to ask for help in how to counsel or assist the teen in dealing with their grief is never a bad idea.
4: ASK OTHERS – Teenagers are world renowned for being able to live a double life. Admit it, most of us did it at their age! Realise first that you will not know everything that is going on, and even the most open and honest teen will rarely tell one person everything. Getting opinions from other people in their life and understanding how your teen acts in different areas of their life will help you know how to best help them through their grief.
5: KEEP LIFE NORMAL – Even if it is the hardest thing in the world, try your hardest to keep some degree of normalcy, some sense of routine. Grief will only be made more difficult to deal with if the teen feels that life will never be the same. In some circumstances, this is correct. But while grief is raw and fresh, routine is so important. As much as possible, refrain from the puppy dog eyes that our sympathy is prone to produce, and from relentless ‘are you okay’s’. It may feel callous, but it will help in the long run, I promise.
6: LET THEM COME TO YOU – This is the most common mistake a parent, guardian, or authority figure can make in any situation; but it can become even dangerous when in regard to grief. Teenagers, when pushed will simply fight or flight. This will (with either reaction) push them further away then they already were. “Space and time will allow a teen to begin to wrap their mind around the situation. Often, parents struggle to talk to their teen, because pushing a teen to talk will simply cause them to shut down. Let your teen come to you. When they are ready to talk, they will.” says Leone Murazik, a personal coach at Brit Student and Writemyx.
7: BE HONEST – Do not lie to your teen about grief. Protection through white lies is a slippery slope. Death is not easy. Loss is not a piece of cake. Grief will not pass quickly. And sometimes, life will not ever be the same without them. Some of us learnt that the hard way. The most helpful thing you can do is to be honest about the situation, and do your best to comfort during the blow, not to soften it through white lies.
Grief will never be an easy thing to deal with, and there is no trick or simple step process to being the best shoulder for your teen while they are dealing with it. The best thing to do is seemingly passive. Be honest, sit with them, listen, and let them lead. And finally, just be there. They have already lost someone, so they need you more than they will ever admit to you.
As always, if grief is something that you or your teenager have struggled with, just know that you’re not alone. AfterTalk is a writing and sharing platform that offers online support for those experiencing grief, and provides useful tools such as a Resource Center, a Therapist Portal, and so on.
Michael Dehoyos is a content marketer and editor at Write my personal statement and Dissertation writing service. He assists companies in their marketing strategy concepts, and contributes to numerous sites and publications. Also, he is a writer at Next Coursework.
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