Dealing with grief for teens

Grief can be overwhelming and isolating, especially for teens. That’s why we’ve pulled together some tips to help grieving teens.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of someone you love. You may have known it was going to happen, or it might have happened with no warning at all. Either way, the death of a loved one is tough – it’s one of the toughest things you’ll ever face.

We promise things do get easier, and you will feel better. Just give it time - you need time (and lots of it) to heal. Try some of these tips for dealing with grief for teens to help you cope.

Talk it out

Grieving can be lonely. Share with a person you trust - a friend, a whānau member, or a professional like your doctor or a therapist. They might have helpful advice and sharing what you’re feeling can lighten your load.

Write about it

Keeping a journal gives you a safe place to write down how you feel and record memories of the person you’ve lost. Writing things down can help you identify troubles and find solutions. Reading back, you can track your grief and see, over time, how you’re coping and the progress you’re making.

Make time for fun

Do the things you enjoy, even if it’s a small thing and only for a short time each day. Listen to music, exercise, meditate, hang out with mates, whatever makes you feel good. Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to feel happy.

Focus on the positive

Keeping positive amid so many negatives is a tough call but try practicing this. Look at the grief you’re experiencing. Is there a positive here? Is it teaching you something about yourself? Is it making you stronger? Is it providing you with a new and positive mindset for your own future and what you want to accomplish in life?

Forget about ‘should’

Grief makes us vulnerable. Even everyday situations can be too hard to bear. Don’t stay in a stressful conversation just because you feel you ‘should’. Or feel like you ‘should’ go out with friends when you’re tired and would rather be alone. There will be another time and you’ll enjoy it more when you feel better. Give yourself permission to say ‘no thanks’ or take yourself away from a stressful situation until you feel calmer.  

Make lists

It’s hard to believe sometimes, but life goes on. There are things you still need to do. Grief makes us forgetful and easily muddled. So make lists, draw up a schedule  and be sure to include the fun stuff. Making lists will help you prioritise.

Think about what you’re grateful for

When you’re feeling down, try writing down three or four things you’re grateful for. They can be big (‘my health’) or little (‘a good kawhi / coffee’). Keep the list handy so you can remind yourself of the things you’re thankful for.

Set aside grieving time

It’s OK to cry and it’s good for you so don’t hold back. Accept that it hurts and it’s hard and some days the crying is non-stop. As time goes by, we cry less but still need to sit, remember, and simply grieve.

Try making a time in your day, or your week, to grieve. This could be meditation, prayer, listening to a certain piece of music, going to a place that has special meaning, or simply sitting at home with a treasured memento of the person you’ve lost.

Remember that it’s OK not to cry too. We all express grief in different ways.  

Keep your mind and body fit and well

You know about keeping your body fit but how about your mental health and fitness? You’ve heard about the ‘mind / body’ connection and it’s true. When our emotions take a hit, our bodies take one too, so looking after both can really help when we’re going through a tough time.

Here are some practical things you can do to keep your mind and body fit and well.

  • Prioritise sleep. Getting enough of it is good for your brain and body, helping you feel energised and focused.
  • Eat well. Stock up on fruit and veg and drink plenty of water.
  • Stay active. Keeping fit can help you to sleep better and manage stressful times so try to stick with your exercise routines.
  • Stay social. It’s easy to retreat and stay in bed when times are tough because we feel like doing a whole bunch of nothing. To connect with others is a human thing, so stay in touch with your friends, plan outings and fun activities. Or join a safe online community and build connections there.
  • Slow down on alcohol and other drugs. They might lessen the pain at the time but long term, they’ll do more harm than good.