Nothing is certain but death and taxes. That is, unfortunately, we will experience the death of a loved one at some point in our lives and so will our children. It’s therefore important to talk about it with them and try to help them deal with it in a healthy way.
As adults, a lot of us still struggle with the subject. That makes it doubly hard for us to talk about it to our teenagers. In this article, we will offer a couple of tips on how to talk to your teenager about death.
Why It’s Important to Talk to Teenagers About Death
Teenagers understand death just like adults do. However, they are less emotionally equipped to deal with the incident and often have a hard time expressing themselves. Talking with them about death has several benefits: It can help them find a way to open up and avoid bottling up their emotions. It can help you gain insight into their thoughts and emotional situation. It can also help them feel less lonely when going through a hard time.
However, to have an effective talk with a teenager, you should be aware of their mental situation and know where they’re currently standing.
Stages of Grief for Teenagers
In 1969, Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross proposed a model for different stages of grief in her book called “On Death and Dying”. Known as the “Kübler-Ross model,” it defines five stages of grief:
The first stage of grief is denial. During this stage, a person expresses shock and disbelief about the incident. This phase can be associated with numbness and excessive quietness. In this phase, a teenager’s still processing what has happened.
During this stage, the grieving person switches their shock into feelings of anger. The anger can be pointed towards various things. In the case of a grieving teenager, the anger can be addressed at parents, teachers, or anyone who used to have a conflict with the deceased person. They can also be angry with God, the universe, or even the departed for having left them alone.
Anger is in fact a substitute for denial. The bereaved person feels constantly lost in a sea of nothingness. So they’ll fill the hollow spot with anger, just to feel something.
Here comes the rule of regrets. In this stage, the grieving person starts overthinking past events and analyzing what has gone wrong. This is a perfect situation for a teenager to see themselves responsible for the loss of a loved one and blame themselves for it.
The bargaining may also target the pain. The teenager would do anything to make the pain go away. This can lead to risky online behavior and substance abuse.
This stage is where it finally hits the bereaved person: My loved one is gone from my life and will never come back. This can result in deep feelings of sadness and depression. Depression takes time to kick in because people may overlook the fact that their loss is irreversible at first before they no longer can. It can also be due to the fact that people finally sense the deceased person’s empty spot when they get back to their routine.
The last stage of grief is acceptance. It happens when they finally accept that a loved one is gone forever. It doesn’t mean that they’re indifferent to or okay with the fact; it just means that they’ve managed to accept it as a part of life and are willing to put up with the pain. In other words, rather than freedom from grief, acceptance is mostly the first step toward it.
How to Help a Teenager Deal with Grief
There are several ways you may support your adolescent in coping with loss, depending on the stage they’re in right now. Here are some tips on how to comfort a grieving teenager:
Don’t Lie to Them
Teenagers can understand the concept of death just like you can. So, there’s no need for you to lie or sugar-coat the truth. Being open and honest with them about what has happened can reduce confusion and help them process their feelings easier.
Allow Them to Feel the Pain
We all love our children so much. So, witnessing their suffering is absolutely intolerable for us. But we can’t expect them to just repress their emotions and feel immediately okay. Just like us, they need to take their time to heal. It’s not a good idea to ignore their grief in an attempt to make them feel better.
Some adults think that in order to gain their children’s respect, they should be impenetrable in front of them. They also think that this can make them seem stronger and more dependable. This, however, is far from the truth.
Showing that you are human too and that you feel pain during moments of crisis will help teens open up. This brings up empathy between the two of you and makes them feel less lonely. Read more about the 4 Most Common Problems Teenagers Have Communicating with Their Parents.
Dealing with teenage grief of the loss of a friend or a loved one can be tough. Teenagers are at a sensitive age. That’s why they can make bad decisions to help them numb the pain. While you have to be understanding of their emotions and give them some space, you should also set some boundaries on what’s okay and what’s not okay to do.
You should keep a close eye on their mental well-being and activities during this hard time. Are they spending too much time outside? Are they skipping classes constantly? Are they looking online for solutions — like drugs — that could potentially harm them?
A parental control app such as Safes can help you find out whether your teenager’s dealing with grief in an unhealthy way. It’s simple to install and get started with whether you’re on an iOS, Android, or Windows operating system. Using safes, you can monitor your children’s online activity and take necessary measures if they need any help.
Talking to teenagers about death is not an easy job. But it’s necessary. We have offered some tips on how to talk to your teenager about death that will help them cope with grief easier. The important thing to remember is that your teenager needs extra attention during this hard period. But they also need space. You should learn to make a balance between the two.