2019 has not been a kind year to our family, especially for my oldest child who has experienced more death in one year than I would ever hope he would experience in a lifetime. I won’t share details here because they are mostly his losses, not mine, but the latest unexpected death has really rocked his world. How can I best support him as he works through the grieving process? Oh, and I am also grieving my own losses and anniversaries of losses. Grief is a bitch for grown ups, so I cannot even imagine what it is like for a teenager.
Here are my thoughts on how to best support teenagers as they learn to grieve. Fellow moms, please chime in with your thoughts as well. This is a difficult topic for me.
- Be sure he knows there is no normal way to grieve. When our family dog died unexpectedly over spring break, he felt badly for not crying immediately. I think it was because he was in shock. Some people cry, some people get angry, others can immediately focus on the memories of the deceased. All are normal ways to grieve a loss.
- Follow his lead. He might want to talk about it, and he might not. Try not to give solutions (this is hard for me as a “fixer”) but instead offer acknowledgements of his feelings.
- Encourage him to lean on his friends. Teenagers rely so much on their friend network. They can comfort one another in ways parents cannot.
- Have him honor the person that died in some way. My son plays guitar, and so I am going to encourage him to write a song about the latest friend who died. She can live on in his music.
- Utilize school supports. We are lucky in that my son has an amazing advisor who he can reach out to, as well as a school counselor. Like most things with parenting teenagers, we are all probably saying the same thing but maybe he can hear it better if it is not coming from mom.
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you.