The Teen Response to Death
Most teens and adults experience physical and emotional responses when someone close to them dies (see Coping with Grief).
Teens react to death differently from adults, essentially because of hormonal makeup, age and environment. For teens the range of responses to normal grief, which often show up in school and at home, are
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat
- Dry mouth; dizziness
- Increased illnesses
- Sensitive skin
- Tightness in the chest
- Fighting with siblings
- Verbal attacks
- Poor grades
- Social withdrawal
The range of emotions may include increased use of drugs, alcohol, self-destructive physical behaviors (car accidents, cutting self, promiscuity).
What we can do to support adults and teens:
- Recognize that this death will change who you and the teen are forever.
- Practice and teach tolerance to your teen
- It’s important to be more open with your emotions
- Recognize the importance of peer relationships
- Respect your adolescent’s need to work through independently
- Include rituals which honor both life and death
- Assist yourself and your teen to come to terms with what happened…think of this as a matter of balance and time
There’s no formula for helping teens grieve a loss or for helping teens understand grief.
Words teens say they most don’t want to hear from others are: “I understand”, “it’s for the best”, “She/he’s gone to a better place” and other easy platitudes.