Helping Your Teen Grieve

Here are some tips to help your teen who has experienced a traumatic event

I want you to know that: I may feel sad, scared, empty, or numb but be embarrassed to show my true feelings. Yet, I may say too much on social media.

You can help me by: Say that it is painful when someone you care about does something like this. Talk about your own feelings and invite me to talk about mine once I’m ready. Offer to find me a counselor if it seems easier for me to talk to someone outside the family. 

I want you to know that: I might have behavior problems that are new or worse than before the incident (angry outbursts, irritability, rule breaking, revenge seeking). 

You can help me by: Have patience and try to remain calm while setting appropriate limits on behaviors. Encourage me to get back to routines and activities with friends. For serious, risky, or harmful behaviors, get professional help. 

I want you to know that: I have trouble concentrating and paying attention or have a change in sleep patterns, such as staying up later or sleeping in all day. 

You can help me by: Realize that I may be having scary thoughts about the incident and not tell you. Talk with me about ways to cope with these, like getting back to enjoyable activities or listening to calming music. Taking a technology break at night will help me to sleep better.  

I want you to know that: Have physical reactions like jumpiness, stomachaches, headaches, a pounding heart, or body aches. These may be worse after being around people, places, sounds, situations or other things that remind him of the person 

You can help me by: Recognize that I may minimize these physical reactions—or do the opposite—exaggerate a minor ailment or injury. Encourage me to use physical activities to release tension or try relaxing things, like deep breathing or gentle stretching. 

 I want you to know that: Sometimes I wonder if something bad will happen to me or that other important people in my life. I may express this by appearing anxious or worried or seeming not to care about the future 

You can help me by: Help me develop a realistic picture of the dangers in life. Talk about ways for me to take control of my safety and future

I want you to know that: I might refuse to go places or do things that remind me of the person.

You can help me by: Understand that upsetting feelings may overwhelm me, but want to look strong or act as if nothing is wrong. 

I want you to know that: I may not want to talk about or remember good things about the person because it brings up reminders. 

You can help me by: Tell me stories about the person. Show me you’re able to see some good things.

I want you to know that: Sometimes I might not want to talk about the person. I may try to change or reject the topic (“leave me alone”), or shrug it off. I may hide my discomfort and act as if nothing bothers me or as if I’m doing fine. 

You can help me by: Realize that I may think that talking about the person will upset you. Even if you feel rejected, do stay involved with me and know where I am and what I’m is doing. I need your presence more than ever. 

I want you to know that: I may talk about feeling responsible 

You can help me by: Give honest, accurate, and age-appropriate information. Teens get information from all kinds of media; so let me know you will always tell me the truth. 

 Parents, remember you're grieving too.  Give yourself permission to find support for yourself as well.

Adapted from