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