ExecutiveChronicles | Helping Your Teen Get Through Grief When Losing a Parent | Grief is one of the most painful experiences on Earth, emotionally. It’s even more painful as an adolescent going through puberty and significant life changes, especially in the case of losing a primary caregiver or parent.
If you have recently lost your partner and your shared teenage child is mourning the loss of their parent at the same time, how can you help them? It’s difficult to be going through your own type of grief and see your child experiencing a loss of a parent at such a young age.
The most important thing you can do is be there for your child and love them unconditionally. Alongside that, we’ve got five essential tips to help you and your teen get through the grief of losing their parent.
1. Get Help When You Need It
You don’t have to do this alone. You’re most likely than not experiencing your own type of grief and trying to find ways to heal the trauma of a loss. If the other parent of your child was no longer in your life, it’s still normal to feel sadness, fear, and anger.
The best way you can help your child get through this grief is by example. Although it may feel tempting to curl up in your bed and never leave, you need to be there for your child. They depend on you for their mental wellbeing and growth.
It’s okay to need help. That’s why specific grief resources are available in many areas. You can find a grief center in your town or look for a grief therapist. If you’re not ready to leave home, there are thousands of therapists online that are available every day. You can even look into mental health medication if you need it to get by each day.
2. Validate Their Emotions, Whatever They Are
Your teen may have strong emotional responses to losing their parent. After all, they are still learning to regulate their emotions and deal with difficult things. You may not understand why they are so angry, closed-off, or explosive in their emotions. Just try to remember that when you were a teen, you most likely would’ve reacted a lot larger as well.
It can feel challenging to validate a teen who is angry or refuses to be hugged or given love during a loss. Instead of telling them to stop or asking them why they’re so angry or even taking it personally, it’s best to validate it. Validation doesn’t mean you are validating their behavior. It does mean that you are giving your teen words for what they’re feeling and telling them that it makes sense.
Some good ways to validate your child include:
- Anger is a typical stage of grief, and it makes sense
- You’re not alone. I’m angry too
- Your feelings are 100% valid, and I will always support you
- I am here for you, and I understand if you aren’t ready to talk
- I love you so much, and it’s okay to feel angry about this loss
- It’s okay to cry or not cry. You do what you can when you’re ready
- Feeling numb or empty after a loss doesn’t mean you don’t care; it’s a valid response to trauma
You can use these phrases for yourself as well if you’re finding yourself feeling angry or confused that you are experiencing an emotion that you don’t want.
3. Try to Keep Their Life Normal and Familiar
Teenagers need normalcy and routine. It helps them deal with their body and mood changes as they grow up. When something traumatic happens, that routine becomes so much more important. Deciding to move cities or countries in the middle of that trauma is just going to make everything worse for them.
Try to avoid making any huge life decisions in the first few months after the death. Consider planning a funeral or memorial so your child or children can get some closure. Let them stay in the same home as you’ve always been in and let them go back to school when they’re ready. Don’t remove more familiarity from their life.
If you absolutely have to move or their parent died overseas or far from where you are, consider going alone and leaving your children with grandparents for a month or two. It’s best to avoid the changes for as long as possible.
4. Provide Representation
Be a good example for your children by showing them the best way to get through grief. If you are sad, show that you are sad. If you want to cry, cry. If you are ready to talk about their parent, talk with them (only if they’re ready too).
Apart from this, purchase children’s books about grief, show them videos of the grieving process, and look for a grief center that you could potentially enroll them in.
5. Educate Them on Trauma and Grief
It’s crucial that you understand how grief is traumatic for children and how this information can help validate them. Having the words for each stage of the grief they’re experiencing can be highly beneficial in healing it. Otherwise, your child may feel “crazy” or “out of control” if they don’t realize that what they’re feeling is normal.
Learn about the 5-7 stages of grief, childhood trauma, loss, and how it affects the nervous system. If you need help, a child grief therapist is an excellent outlet for your kid. They’ll be able to help your child with exercises and education to learn what their grief means and how to get through it.
Now that you’ve learned about how to help your teen through their grief, it’s an excellent time to learn a bit more yourself. Check out BetterHelp’s advice column on grief and loss here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/.
You’re not alone in your grief, and you’re doing your best. Your teen will most likely appreciate your efforts, even if it doesn’t seem like it for a while. They’ll remember this period of their life for the rest of their life, so it’s vital that you do your absolute best to help them get through it.
Photo by Darina Belonogova: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-sitting-alone-by-the-glass-window-7208974/