A teenager's death can be difficult for any parent, family, friends, and loved ones. Parents who are mourning the death of their teenage child will experience many types of grief. Sometimes all at once, and at others, their suffering will ebb and flow. Regardless of how they died, a child’s death at any age is an incredibly traumatic and tragic one.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Grieving the Death of Your Teenage Child
- Tips for Helping Your Teenage Child Grieve the Death of Their Friend
- Tips for Helping a Loved One Grieve the Death of Their Teenage Child
A parent may feel the weight of dealing with the grief, guilt, and shame that accompanies this type of significant loss. Most parents feel incredibly responsible for the wellbeing of their children. They may feel a profound sense of failure when their child dies.
There are no words to describe the loss of a child. Any parent who's had to bury a child can tell you of the incomparable pain and sorrow they've suffered.
Tips for Grieving the Death of Your Teenage Child
With society's belief in death's natural order and that parents should never outlive their children, the mourning process for a bereaved parent can become complicated. The normal grief experience in other types of less significant losses is prolonged when you suffer a teenage child's death.
Some of the contributing factors to the complication of your grief and bereavement over the death of a teenager are grief, trauma, and depression. Most parents who've experienced this type of loss will agree that losing a child is hurt like no other. No one can understand the pain and suffering that any parent experiences unless they've experienced a child’s death themselves.
1. Find a way to survive
One of the hardest things to face in life is the death of your child at any age. There’s no consolation for losing a newborn child, a teenager, or one that is well into adulthood and nearing old age. When your teenager dies, the overwhelm may be so shocking that you won't know how to keep on living. Some days you'll wake up in tears and miss them so deeply, and other days you'll feel more capable of making it through the day.
For the days that feel like you can barely survive, find ways to help you make it to the next day. You may have to live your life one day at a time for a while until you've had a chance to process your child's death and discover ways of coping with your loss.
2. Talk to a trusted friend
Sometimes it may be difficult to confide in your grieving spouse or partner, whether they’re your child's biological parent or bonus parent. No one can understand your suffering's profound pain as everyone undergoes a unique grieving process and experience. Find someone you can trust and confide in to talk to.
Some of the biggest obstacles to overcome following a child's death are major depression, complicated grief, and thoughts and ideations of suicide. Your partner may be having difficulty processing their grief and may not know how to support you through yours. At the very least, finding someone else to talk to in addition to your partner lessens some of their stress.
3. Realize love never dies
When your teenager dies suddenly or if their death resulted from a long illness, it may take you years to process and accept their death. For some people, the pain they felt on the day their child died is the pain they'll continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.
Along with a child's death is the death of all the hopes and dreams you had for them as they transitioned from teenagers to young adults. Their premature death extinguished all the promises of their future. You’ll continue to ache for your child because grief is a product of love. And your love for your child never dies regardless of how much time passes since their death.
4. Seek professional help
One of the most significant risks you face after your teenager's death is the risk of developing a mental health disorder. You can expect to experience depression, biological, and neurological changes as time goes on. You'll never fully recover from the death of your child.
A trained grief counselor or therapist can help you lessen the impact of their death on your overall well being. You can find recommendations for a therapist online by joining a grief support group and asking others about their experience.
Tips for Helping Your Teenage Child Grieve the Death of Their Friend
Whenever someone dies so young, it's the tragedy of a young life cut short. Your teenager’s friend will never get the chance to live life to the fullest and experience all the things that come with growing into an adult. Your teenager may soon realize the tragedy of their friend's death as they consider their mortality.
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5. Tell the truth
It's important to talk to your teenager and tell them the truth about their friend's death. Any attempt at hiding the truth or lying about what happened may backfire. Your teenager may feel resentment toward you for causing any confusion in explaining their friend's death.
It's okay to tell your teen that you don't know all of the particulars of their friend's death if you don't know yet what happened. A teenager's death can be sudden and violent due to an accident, suicide, or homicide instead of a long illness.
6. Talk to them about death
The death of your teenager's friend may be your child's first introduction to death and dying. It's essential to talk to them about death at this time. They’ll need to understand that what they're feeling is a normal part of the bereavement process.
The death of one of their friends is tough to accept and understand for most teenagers. They may feel anxiety about death, ask why and how it happened, and wanting to know all of the particulars without necessarily wanting to talk about them.
7. Encourage them to grieve
After you've explained some of the feelings and emotions that follow such a significant loss, you may want to let them know that it is OK to share their grief. Teenagers are already feeling a lot at this point in their lives, and may switch from one extreme to another. Here are some things you may want to say to your teenage child:
- Encourage your teen to express their grief.
- Teach them healthy ways to let out their feelings and explain why it's unnatural and unhealthy to hold them in.
- Permit them to grieve in ways that make sense to them without forcing them to share their grief journey if they aren't ready to.
If for some reason you feel that your child is experiencing more chronic symptoms related to their grief, you may want to consider grief counseling for teens specifically.
8. Teach them about grief rituals
Grief rituals are a part of many cultural traditions following the death of a loved one. Teach your teenager about the grief rituals that are customary to your family and tradition. This includes deciding whether to attend their friend's funeral or memorial service, writing a letter to the deceased friend or their parents, or keeping a journal.
Encourage them to think about and decide how they best want to remember their friend and what traditions they’re comfortable participating in.
Tips for Helping a Loved One Grieve the Death of Their Teenage Child
Sometimes it's difficult to watch someone you love grieve the death of their teenager. You feel helpless because you don't know how to comfort them. As a bystander, you may not feel equipped to help them cope with the magnitude of this type of loss.
Although sometimes it’s difficult to know what to say to someone who's lost a child, understand that your silence is more painful to them than when you say something thoughtful while not profound.
9. Say something to comfort them
Not knowing what to say to someone who lost a child keeps many people from saying anything at all. In their inability to formulate the right words to say, they stay silent. Instead, even the most well-intentioned people withdraw in shame.
You may be thinking that you're giving your loved one space, but they may see it as abandonment in their time of need for words of hope and encouragement. Consider telling your loved one how much it hurts you that their child has died and to see them suffering such a tremendous loss. You don't need to say anything more.
10. Stand back and let them cry
You don't need to say anything deeply meaningful to your loved one who's grieving the loss of their teenager. You don't even need to understand what they're going through to be a supportive presence. It's enough to show up and be by their side and offer a shoulder to cry on.
Stay by their side even when their grief makes you uncomfortable. It may take them a few days to accept and understand their child's death. They'll need you to be there to support them when their grief overtakes them.
11. Take care of pressing needs
A grieving parent may be numb to the realization that they'll need to make funeral arrangements and notify family and friends of their teenager's death.
Help them out by placing necessary phone calls, following up with the funeral home, making the announcement of their child's death through social media, or publishing an obituary for a teenager to let others know of the death.
Coping with a Teenager’s Death
A parent will never get over the death of their teenager. There's no moving on or getting over the pain a parent of a deceased child will suffer for a lifetime. The best a parent can do when they have the death of a child is to move through their grief in the years to come. Some days will be more challenging than others.
Finding solace in support of others who've experienced a similar tragedy is sometimes the best way to manage and make it through each day.