Grief is a natural and complex process that affects individuals of all ages. Adolescence, however, can be a particularly difficult time for young people as they navigate through the ups and downs of various experiences. Losing a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, pet, or significant adult can be an overwhelming experience for teenagers. Although the stages of grief for teenagers share similarities to those for adults, adolescent grief has some unique aspects.
Stages of Grief for Teenagers
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, adolescents may not experience these stages in a linear sequence and may move back and forth between them, spending more or less time in each stage. Moreover, teenagers may also display common grief responses.
10 Common Grief Responses in Adolescents
Losing a loved one is never easy, and it can be especially challenging for adolescents still navigating their emotions and personal development. Coping with grief is a natural and essential process, but it can manifest differently for everyone. Here are some of the symptoms of grief:
- Disbelief – Adolescents may have difficulty believing that someone they know and love is no longer alive. They may look for the deceased person or expect them to come back.
- Numbness – Some teenagers may feel numb or disconnected from the world around them, as if in a dream.
- Guilt – Adolescents may feel guilty for things they did or didn’t do before the person died. They may blame themselves for the death.
- Anger – Teenagers may direct their anger at themselves, the deceased person, other family members or friends, or even God. They may feel like life is unfair and wonder why bad things happen to good people.
- Withdrawal – Some adolescents may withdraw from their usual activities, friends, and family. They may feel like they don’t fit in or that no one understands them.
- Anxiety – Teenagers may feel anxious about things they didn’t worry about before. They may fear losing someone else or worry about their mortality.
- Physical symptoms – Some adolescents may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or sleeping problems.
- Regression – Some teenagers may regress to behaviors they used to have when they were younger, such as bedwetting or tantrums.
- Confusion – Adolescents may feel confused about their identity and place without the person who died. They may question their beliefs, values, and goals.
- Seeking connection – Lastly, some teenagers may seek connection with the deceased person through rituals, ceremonies, dreams, or social media.
Symptoms of Grief
It’s important to note that not all adolescents will experience the same grief responses, and some may not display any significant symptoms. However, parents, teachers, and caregivers should be aware of the following signs of grief in teenagers:
- Mood swings or changes in behavior
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
- Feeling sad or crying for no apparent reason
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Substance abuse or reckless behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Sleeping problems or nightmares
If parents or caregivers notice any of these symptoms, they should seek professional help.
Reach Out to Imagine Spokane for Grief Therapy
If your teenager is struggling with grief or loss, don’t hesitate to contact Imagine Spokane today. Our team of compassionate and experienced therapists can help your teenager work through their feelings and develop healthy coping strategies.
At Imagine Spokane, we offer various services to address adolescent mental health, including treating grief and loss. Our highly trained clinicians use evidence-based practices such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and trauma-informed care to help teenagers navigate the stages of grief and common responses.