Helping Your Teen with the Loss of a Loved One

Helping Your Teen with the Loss of a Loved One

There is an abundance of challenges during one’s adolescent stage of life. The transitions, growth, and maturation process can be exciting but also painful and difficult. A young person that is faced with the loss of a loved one can be emotionally crippling, when not properly managed. Loss is a normal and unavoidable part of being human, and grief is an emotion that is caused by loss. The Mayo Clinic explains “Grief is a strong, sometimes, overwhelming emotion for people…” Grief affects the human limbic system by disrupting certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with one’s reward center and feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is known as one of the chemicals responsible for maintaining one’s mood balance. Grief will manifest in each teen differently, as there is no single way to grieve. 

Symptoms

To be able to help your teen with the loss of a loved one it is helpful to mindful of the associated symptoms. Though each teen is different, there are some common symptoms that can arise in a young person who has difficulty with grief management. Below are examples of some of the typical symptoms, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Changes in one’s diet
  • Social isolation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hyper vigilance 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Challenges at school 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal ideation

Any young person that loses a loved one will experience symptoms of grief. This is a normal part of life and growth. The wide range of how teens may respond to grief is essential for an adult to be mindful of and respect. 

How To Help

Although experiencing grief after a loved one has passed is healthy and natural, it can be very difficult to witness your child suffer. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can help your teen with the loss of a loved one. Consider the following tips: 

  • Allow your teen to grieve and model healthy grieving behaviors: let your teen know that everyone grieves differently and encourage your teen to find his or her own way to respond to the loss
  • Help your teen find ways to express grief: not all teens will respond to verbally processing their feelings, rather many teens lean towards creative outlets (e.g., music, dance, drawing, painting, etc.) to move through the grieving process
  • Maintain consistency with family rules and routines: loss of a loved one can cause a teen to feel out of control, reinforcing boundaries and limits can provide a sense of safety and security in teens during this time
  • Connect your teen with support groups: support groups can help your teen feel a sense of community and let them know they are not alone.

Loss and grief can be difficult to navigate for parents and teens, and there is no shame in asking for professional guidance to learn how to best support your teenager. If the symptoms are prolonged and inhibit a teenager’s ability to function in his or her everyday life, it may be advantageous to pursue outside help. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at info@pacificrtc.com.