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5 Stages of Grief for a Teenager

a teenager could use some help getting through the five stages of grief

Teenagers who are faced with the death of a loved one are affected particularly hard. Children, on the one hand, are typically too young to fully grasp the complex emotions beyond loss. On the other hand, while adults and teenagers handle grief similarly, the key difference is how a death can affect the real or perceived stability of life. Teens are still in the process of developing an identity, often moving out on their own, so a close death can profoundly affect emotional stability and security.

When your teen is feeling at their lowest, it’s important to assist in their processing of grief. The five stages of grief for teenagers are difficult to navigate, but they don’t have to do it alone. At Imagine Spokane, we focus on bringing quality mental health treatment to those aged 12-17. To parents of teens struggling with grief or loss, there’s help available. Start grief and loss therapy now by calling us at 888.384.3143 or using our secure online form.

How Does Death Affect You Emotionally?

Death is an inevitable part of life. Most people understand that and are able to sympathize when death impacts a friend or a stranger. However, once they themselves are confronted with the death of someone close, the response process can be completely different. While reactions to an immediate death can vary, there does seem to be a through-line when it comes to the individual response to death, often referred to as the five stages of grief.

The five stages of grief are a concept first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. The Kübler-Ross model lays out five distinct stages for identifying, rationalizing, and ultimately accepting death, whether that’s the death of a loved one or of the self. The stages are as follows:


Denial is the state of shock and the aversion to accepting the reality of the situation. It is, strictly speaking, irrational, but that disconnection from reality is a powerful means of coping with shock. It is essential that the sufferer move on from denial, but the process shouldn’t be rushed.


Anger is directed inward and outward. Even if a person had no hand in the death of a loved one, an angry response can feel warranted or even cathartic. Self-loathing or the loathing of others can make communicating with someone in the anger stage abrasive or painful.


Bargaining can be an appeal to the self or to a higher power. While in the bargaining stage, people will often ask for what can’t be given, question how things could have been different, and sink further into pain.


Depression is the penultimate stage before things can properly readjust. Whereas the previous three stages fixate on the past, depression is a realization of the present. It’s possible to become stuck here, just like in denial.


Moving on from depression doesn’t mean forgetting. Instead, acceptance is the act of growth, understanding that nothing will be the same, but that difference is acceptable. Most people never fully move on from a death, and they shouldn’t. The loss of someone is as meaningful as their presence. Accepting that is what grieving should culminate in.

Psychological Effects of the Death of a Loved One

The stages of grief for teenagers are especially psychologically demanding. It takes a great deal of maturity, self-awareness, and scope to process grief properly. Teenagers may not exceed or even possess some of these qualities to the extent that adults do, so understanding the psychological effects that teens deal with is essential for parents.

Teenagers will likely not express or handle death the same way as you. Their connection to the deceased may differ, and it may be their first major encounter with death. Psychologically, their experience will be messy, stressful, and potentially difficult to express. Talk to your teen about how they’re handling grief, and understand the mental health challenges loss often poses.

Learn More About Grief and Loss Counseling for Teens at Imagine Spokane

At Imagine Spokane, the loss of a loved one is something the members of our team are personally acquainted with. We understand the processing of grief can be devastating, but we also know how to help. Grief and loss therapy is included as part of our partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP), and treatment is just a phone call away.

Reach out to the specialists at Imagine Spokane today by calling 888.384.3143 or filling out our online form to learn about grief counseling and how to navigate the stages of grief for teenagers.