Although the time when a young person loses a friend or family member to death can be devastatingly sad, it is also a key time in the maturing cycle of that youth. A young person can learn the joy of having developed a loving relationship with someone whose time has come. Unfortunately, a teenager can also react very negatively to loss, blaming God, life, or themselves for the acute feelings of pain they experience. In the extreme case, they may vow never to expose themselves to that kind of pain again, and withdraw from continuing healthy relationships. This is an important note to parents of a grieving adolescent: the difference between whether a loss becomes a positive or a negative experience in the mind of their teenager may well depend on the support they get during that time from parents and counselors.
A challenge comes when the loss of a family member not only affects the child, but the parents as well. The person who could best help the child may well be dealing with his or her own pain. This may lead the parent to expecting the child to “be tough”. Unfortunately, teenagers are likely to experience the pain of loss even more intensely than their parents are. If the parents are at all in denial, the child is even more likely to be so. For this reason, here is a second note to parents of a grieving adolescent: be sure you get the help you need to cope with the loss, so that you can be in a position to help your child as well.