Grief Counseling for Teens: How to Help
“You don’t have to experience grief, but you can only avoid it by avoiding love. Love and grief are inextricably intertwined.” — David Kessler, grief expert
Teen brains function differently than adult brains, which can cause the teen years to feel like a stormy sea of emotions. Science reveals that adults process information with their prefrontal cortex, which is the rational part of the brain. However, until about age 25, teens process information with the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional part. Have you ever asked your teen, “What were you thinking?” They genuinely can’t tell you because they were feeling and not thinking.
It takes special care when an already sensitive teen is grieving, but help and healing are possible through skilled grief counseling for teens.
What Is Grief?
Grief is a feeling. It’s a normal aspect of being human, and a natural response to change and loss. Grief can be defined as “the process of experiencing the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual responses to loss or the perception of loss.” For a teen, loss and grief can stem from situations such as a break-up, changes at school, social distancing and quarantines, divorcing parents, illness, or death of a loved one.
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief model, which include:
- Denial: “This can’t be happening.”
- Anger: “Why did this happen, and who caused it?”
- Bargaining: “If this could all go away, I promise I will ______.”
- Depression: “I can’t function because I’m so sad.”
- Acceptance: “It happened, and I’m at peace.”
Grief expert David Kessler suggests there is a sixth stage of grief: finding meaning. Grieving is not linear, so people don’t go through the stages of grief in order. Your teen may experience all of the grief stages or just a couple of them. They will probably go through the grief stages multiple times.
How to Help Your Grieving Teen
You can help your teen process their grief in a caring way by listening without fixing, reminding them that grief is a normal response, and not adding pressure to “stay strong.” Groups for grieving teens and professional grief counseling can also help your teen cope and thrive after a heartbreaking loss.
Signs Your Child Needs Grief Counseling for Teens
Each teen grieves uniquely; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. But, since the teen years can already be tumultuous, it can be challenging to discern if your child needs additional support. Grief counseling for teens can be an excellent option to help your child cope with their grief.
Indicators that your child could benefit from teen grief counseling may include:
- Your teen wanting to be alone more than usual
- Deep sadness or depression
- Declining grades or skipping school
- Substance abuse
- Weight loss or gain
- Engaging in risky behavior
- Significant behavior changes
Each year, thousands of teens experience grief-inducing loss. At Eunoia Counseling, our skillfully trained and caring therapists are experienced in grief counseling for teens. We can help your teen develop the tools they need to cope with their authentic grief in a healthy way. Contact us today and set your teen on their path to wholeness.