Teenagers are in a stage in their lives when they are seeking to be more independent. They are exploring boundaries, dreaming of their future, discovering their gifts, and constantly learning. This balancing act between childhood and adulthood can make their grief difficult.

Unlike younger children, adolescents fully understand the finality of death, but they are not yet adults. When they seek help from a therapist, a funeral director helping with arrangements, or another caregiver, they may seem distant, but will likely still yearn for a helping hand and guidance through their grief. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Helping Them When They Feel Lost

After someone dies, teens often feel lost and forgotten. If they have younger siblings, the family’s focus may be on those children and ensuring they have support. People may assume a teenager is self-sufficient or coping fine, but teenagers tend to internalize their feelings and put on a brave face, particularly if they feel they need to protect a little brother or sister.

It can be helpful for caregivers to continually check in, listen, and give them space when they need it. If the adults in their home are focusing on the little kids in the house, trusted caregivers can ensure teens feel seen and heard, and have someone to guide them through their grief.

The teenage years can already be a confusing time, so when they lose someone in their life, it complicates an already difficult period. Having caregivers who offer consistency without pressure helps them feel safe.

Being a Comforting Presence

Sometimes teenagers are just not ready to open up. Being present and approachable while being patient helps communicate that you are there to support them when they are ready. Teenagers tend to pull away when pressured, but knowing that their clergy, youth leaders, and others are available and easy to talk to is reassuring.

With the parent’s consent, caregivers who have a closer relationship with the teen may want to invite them out for coffee, show up to their games and performances, and drop food off that they know the teenanger loves. Small acts can make a big difference.

When children and teens lose a loved one, especially a parent or sibling, they may grieve the loss all over again with each new stage of their life. While most people who have experienced loss grieve in some way their entire lives, children and teens can grieve the loss as if it were new with each developmental stage. Sharing this with a teenager may help prepare them as they face new phases of their life.

Getting Them Involved

Do not be afraid to ask for their assistance with funeral arrangements. Teenagers are often creative and full of ideas, so it can be helpful to garner their opinion. For example, funeral directors can give them poster boards to create photo collages for use during the service or encourage them to bring something to place in the casket that was special to their relationship with the deceased. Also consider asking them if they want to speak during the funeral service, play a certain type of music, or serve as a pallbearer.

When it comes to the actual service, ensure that they are not forgotten and that they have a place up front with the rest of the family. Teenagers tend to want to hide from the funeral in the back with their friends, and while sometimes that may be what is best for them, it is important that funeral directors always have a place for them up front, should they change their mind. To that end, remind them that if they are feeling overwhelmed, they can always take a break and step away from the situation.

Guiding Them in Decision Making

Sometimes there are situations when teenagers are the ones primarily responsible for making the funeral arrangements. When this is the case, it is important for funeral directors and clergy to be delicate and give them space and time. They may not be little kids anymore, but they are still not adults, and will likely still need, and want, comfort and guidance from professionals. When it comes to making decisions, it can be helpful to present them with all the options available, and then give them ways to customize their loved ones' funeral items.

Also, if possible, do not force them into making any specific decisions, even if outside family members think those choices are the right way to go. Allowing them to do what they think is best can help them in their healing journey.

Listening When They Need it Most

Teenagers will talk when they are ready, and they will value those who continue to show up for them no matter what. Being present and listening without judgment are key. While teens understand that the person who died will not come back, they will still experience crushing grief that may be hard for them to process. By checking in, listening, guiding their decision making, and just being a solid presence, it will go a long way toward helping them navigate their grief.

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