A group of teenagers talking

Adolescence is always difficult, but adding a loved one’s serious illness into the mix can make this time even more complicated. The needs of a grieving teenager are unique and shouldn’t be overlooked. Following are five important things to know about the grieving teen.

1. Teenagers need to share in the family’s grief process.

Many assume that teenagers will “roll with punches” and come out of the experience relatively unscathed. Yet avoiding the subject of illness or death often creates an atmosphere of isolation and confusion.

2. Consistency is key.

Serious illness and death can be emotionally exhausting, and so it’s natural for daily routines and discipline to slide. Yet maintaining a consistent home life provides a needed sense of security.

3. School can be taxing.

The classroom can be a lonely place. If teachers are not aware of the illness or loss, they may place unrealistic pressure on the student. If informed, however, teachers can provide much-needed privacy and support.

4. Teenagers desire outward signs of affection.

Even if they don’t show it, teenagers often need hugs and affection, especially during a time of loss. It may be very difficult for them to ask for this physical support themselves.

5. Dating relationships may become important.

When the rest of the family is consumed with their own pain, teenagers may long desperately to “belong” to someone. Many teens say that it doesn’t really matter if the relationship is a good one—what matters is that it shows that someone cares for them in an intimate way.

Teenagers are extremely vulnerable to stress, so a loved one’s illness or death can cause fear, confusion and isolation. Understanding these common needs during grief can go a long way in promoting healing. For more help or to schedule an individual counseling session, contact Kids Path at 336.544.5437.