Coping with Grief & Loss

Losing a parent, a loved one, a sibling, a childhood friend, is an incredible pain. While the causes of grief and loss are obvious, coping with loss is one of life’s great challenges, particularly for teens undergoing a development period between childhood and adulthood. The loss teens experience is often sudden and unexpected, creating a numb feeling that it isn’t real. In some cases adequate support may be lacking. Social peers may not understand how to relate and support this type of loss unless they’ve experienced loss themselves, and other family members stricken with their own grief may create isolation. Therapy can help a teen in processing and coping with grief and loss. 

Signs a Teen May Need Extra Help

There are various reasons why grieving can be especially difficult for teenagers and some individuals may need more help processing. 

Some of the signs that your teen may need extra help include:

  • depressive symptoms which include a sleeping difficulties, abandonment of previous social activities, and a lasting depressive change in mood
  • academic failure or deterioration in grades, truancy, or acting out 
  • risk-taking behavior such as fighting, alcohol use, and drug use
  • acting strong and unfazed may also mean a teen isn’t processing their grief which may come out later more pronounced and violently

Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder

Most people experiencing grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually over time these feelings become less acute, and people start to accept and move forward. For some, these feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. This is known as complex bereavement disorder or complicated grief. In complicated grief, the painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that an individual has trouble recovering and moving their life forward.

Grief is Complex

While most people have heard the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; everyone processes grief differently. It’s an individual journey and far more complicated. Every loss is unique and people may not experience these stages in order, with some coming out much later, for example a birthday or during the holidays. 

Sources: Mayo Clinic;

Mental disorders affect the whole family.

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