The simple fact that death is common does not make dealing with its fallout any easier. If your family has recently lost a loved one, you know, as an adult, how difficult managing and processing your emotions can be. Now, imagine how much more frustrating and burdensome it must be for a teenager — someone who has barely started to understand themselves now needs to sort through a litany of complex and conflicting emotions, ranging from anger and confusion to heartache and deep sorrow.
Unfortunately, teens generally don’t like discussing their feelings with parental units. So how do you help them process their feelings in a healthy way? Here are a few ways to help your teen child manage the grief caused by traumatic situations.
Get them involved in therapy.
Your teenager may not feel entirely comfortable talking to you, specifically, about their deepest thoughts, and that’s perfectly fine. The key is finding someone they do trust so they can unload some of their emotional baggage in a healthy, positive way. This could take the form of family therapy, where you can all discuss the impact this loss has had on you (which will also be beneficial for you, as both a therapeutic and bonding experience), or group therapy, where your teen will be able to communicate with and relate to other people their age who are going through the same traumatic situations.
Don’t ignore what happened.
No matter how painful the memory, it is absolutely vital that you keep your teen talking about it. Never force them to talk if they aren’t comfortable, but keep the conversation open so it doesn’t become a subject of taboo and intense emotional stress. It will be incredibly difficult in the beginning, as fresh memories and wounds are the most sensitive, so encourage them to cry if they feel the need to. Bottling everything up inside is the easiest route to depression and anxiety; in fact, around 11% of teenagers have a depressive disorder by the time they’re 18 years old — by opening a channel of emotional communication and understanding with your child, you can do your part to keep their mental health healthy.
Although you may be struggling with your own feelings, it’s important to be an emotional rock for your teen: everything they have ever known may be changing, but you aren’t. Continue to be an infallible constant and your child will start to recover knowing they have a reliable shoulder to lean on.