Supporting Children in Grief: Teens (13 to 18 years)

We hear a lot from folks about how they don’t know what to say or do for kids and teens when someone has died. Many folks are also unsure if a child is grieving “right.” Check out the tips below that can help you gain a better understanding of what grief looks like for children 13 to 18 years of age, what you can say to them to help, and how their grief looks different than an adult’s.

Common Grief Reactions

  • Teens may question their identity after the death, and can be confused by how grief makes them feel
  • Teens may look to friend groups to decide if what they’re feeling is okay
  • To avoid “upsetting” adults, they may keep quiet and to themselves
  • Isolation may be a grief reaction at this age
  • A fantasy that one could be with the person who died again is a common and normal grief reaction that does not necessarily mean your child wishes to die
  • Teens can be impacted by new responsibilities
  • May remain numb in order to keep functioning as usual
  • Can be tired or restless, have difficulty concentrating, or other aches and pains

Appropriate ways to speak with your child

  • Offer non-judgmental comfort and support
  • Answer big questions with honesty
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Try not to say “I know how you feel” or statements with “at least”
  • Leave time for thinking, and also check-in

Activities

  • Journal feelings
  • Plan together ways to honor the memory of their loved one
  • Create a memory box/book/poster
  • Write a letter to the person who died
  • Celebrate their loved one by eating a food that they liked, listening to music they enjoyed, or doing an activity they liked, together

Things to Remember

  • Children’s grief is based on one’s culture, religion, and race
  • Maintain a level of curiosity with your child’s experience in grief
  • There are no set stages; grief doesn’t happen in any special order
  • Grief and grieving changes over time
  • Reach out to a professional if you or your child needs support

A Message from The Jewish Board

If you or someone you love lives in the New York metropolitan area and need help coping with grief and loss, we can help. Call us at 1.844.ONE.CALL to speak with an intake specialist. You can also contact our Loss and Bereavement Team by emailing griefsupport@jbfcs.org, calling 212.632.4692, or filling out our referral form.