Teen Grief: What to look for, what to do

Teen Grief Cues

  1. Difficulty with concentration, with a decrease in academic performance
  2. Body distress which include headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and fluctuations in eating, eating disorders
  3. Acting out, including drug/alcohol use, risk-taking, promiscuity, uncontrolled emotions
  4. Wanting to be alone all the time  — isolated, sullen
  5. Increased irritability and anger
  6. Suicidal talk or behavior
  7. Anxiety, fear, panic, insecurity
  8. Lack of interest in usual activities
  9. Refusal to talk, or emotional withdrawal
  10. Becoming the “perfect” teen

Being with a Teen in Grief

  1. Establish a rapport – ask them questions about themselves to earn trust.
  2. Listen, care for and accept them as they are
  3. Acknowledge their loss, acknowledge that they are having a difficult time
  4. Assure them that what they are experiencing is normal
  5. Tell the truth, answer their questions honestly
  6. Expect the discussions to involve larger issues, not only the death or other loss
  7. Expect a range of emotions, sometimes shocking – accept their unique process
  8. Encourage them to participate in physical and creative activities that allow for expression of feeling and release of tension.
  9. Encourage peer group support, if available
  10. Remember that their families may be in turmoil and you might be the only stable influence in their life.

Resources:  The Dougy Center, The National Center for Grieving Children and Families, Alan Wofelt, Ph.D. and  Joseph A. Santiago

What do kids in grief really feel?

New York LifNyl_con_griefjourneye is doing great work for understanding kids in grief.  They say in their recent study: Kids value communication about loss, but feel it’s lacking: Many say “most people don’t know how to talk to you after a loved one dies.”   The study also says that schools score poorly in helping these kids cope. That’s why programs like WinterSpring’s Teen Grief Groups are so important.  As school budgets get cut, kids get less and less support from staff and thus the nonprofits like us who go into the schools become even more important to the health of children, teens and their families.


And see this short video on how children feel: