How can I help teens cope with the loss of a loved one?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
  • First, you must have an established trusting relationship with the teens so that you can be there for them.
  • If necessary, refer and encourage the teens to obtain support from a counselor, a psychologist, a child life specialist, or a pastor. However, be careful not to push too hard.
  • Debrief with them and model healthy grieving (coping).
  • Offer your teens materials that address teen grief.
Kathy Clair-Hayes
Social Work
Teens often turn to their friends for solace, but they will still need reassurance, answers to questions, and comfort from family after the loss of a loved one.
  • Let them ask questions and share feelings. Teens are not yet adults, although some try to act very mature. Listen closely. Offer hugs. While remembering that teens are still young, be willing to share information when they ask questions, and involve them with decisions about services and funerals.
  • Reassure them. Teens also need reminders that nothing they did—or didn't do—caused the death. Adolescence is a time to separate from parents, but this normal need for independence can complicate grieving. The desire for independence may have prompted conflicts. Once again, reassure a teen that any harsh words spoken ("I wish you'd die!") didn't cause the death, and that their loved one understood that the teen loved him or her. A parent's death can be especially hard at this time, because the teen may feel guilty for having pushed away emotionally from the parent and have conflicting feelings.
  • Talk about the future. Teens may have financial fears or worries about future plans. Gently expressing and exploring these issues may be worthwhile.
  • Give them a chance to be with their peer group. Often, teens want to talk to and spend time with friends. Grieving together can be an enormous solace.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.