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Teens And A Death In The Family

How a teen handles grief is just as personal and individualistic as how an adult handles grief.  As with adults, it is influenced by many factors, including how close the teen was to the person, how sudden the death was and the teens own belief system.  However, there are some ways in which you can make dealing with the death of a loved one easier for your teen.

First, give your teen some space, but stay nearby.  Teens may or may not articulate their grief but they still need the comfort of having access to a parent.  If your teen wants to lose himself in video games, give him that freedom but check in with him often to see if he's doing OK.

Next, give teens a chance to talk about their feelings but don't expect them to.  Chances are that this is the first time that your teen has gone through something like this. They need to explore their feelings on their terms and time table, not on yours.

Also, expect your teen to have some questions about their own mortality in the months following a death, especially if the person in question was younger or died suddenly.  The concept of personal mortality is often foreign to teens and they need time to process what it means to not be around anymore.

Finally, be open about your own grief but don't use your teen as a therapist.  It’s both good and healthy for your teen to see you cry and know that you miss your mutual loved one.  However, if you find yourself unable to cope with your feelings you should seek help from a therapist to work through your grief rather than continue to let it control your life.  As adults it’s important that we model healthy coping strategies for our teens so that they can feel competent to handle their own feelings.

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