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Navigating the Depths: Understanding Grief in Teens

Guest blog by Codie Surratt,MA, LPC, LMT


Grief after loss is an intricate emotion. But when grief intersects with the turbulent period of adolescence, the impact can be profound. Adolescents grapple with the complexities of loss while navigating the challenges of identity formation, peer relationships, and academic pressures. So, understanding grief in teens can be challenging.

During this critical phase of development, the loss of a loved one can trigger a unique set of emotional responses. Teenagers may experience intense feelings of isolation, confusion, and even guilt as they attempt to comprehend the permanence of death. The grieving process becomes intertwined with the quest for self-discovery, making it a multifaceted journey.

Social dynamics play a crucial role in how adolescents cope with grief. Peer support, understanding teachers, and a compassionate community can provide a safety net during this challenging time. Encouraging open conversations about grief reduces the stigma surrounding it, allowing adolescents to express their emotions without fear of judgment.

Related Reading: How to Manage Grief and Loss: 4 Coping Strategies

The impact of grief on academic performance is a common concern. Teens may find it difficult to concentrate when they’re grieving, and this can lead to a decline in school performance. Educators can play a pivotal role in recognizing signs of grief-related struggles and providing appropriate support, fostering an environment that acknowledges the emotional needs of grieving students.


Tips for Your Teen in Navigating the Grief Process

While every adolescent’s journey with and through grief may look and feel different, the following are some general tips to share with your teen to help them navigate this process.

  1. Allow yourself to feel: It’s important to acknowledge and experience your emotions during grief rather than avoiding, denying, or suppressing them. Accepting your feelings is a crucial step in the healing process. This can look like labeling the feeling, acknowledging it, and leaving space to attend to your needs.


  1. Seek support: Connect with friends, family, or a support group to share your thoughts and emotions. Talking about your grief can provide comfort and help you feel less isolated. Many studies find that actively continuing to talk about your loved one with those that you trust can help aid in the grief process.

  1. Establish routines: Creating a sense of structure in your daily life can provide stability and help manage overwhelming feelings. Stick to a routine that includes self-care activities.


  1. Practice self-compassion: Be patient and understanding with yourself during the grieving process. Allow time for healing and recognize that everyone copes differently. Grief is felt on a continuum, this process can feel scary and out of control at times, learning to be kind and gentle to yourself as you navigate can help ease the fear that can surface.


  1. Professional help: If needed, consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor who specializes in grief counseling for teens. Professional support can offer valuable tools and coping strategies.


Grief Resources for Teens

As adolescents grapple with the loss, they may experiment with various coping mechanisms. Some may immerse themselves in creative outlets like art or writing, while others may seek solace in close friendships. Understanding these diverse coping strategies can aid parents, educators, and friends in offering meaningful support.

Related Reading: How to Heal Grief with EMDR and Somatic Therapy

It’s essential to recognize that the stages of grief for teenagers are not a linear process. The emotional roller coaster may include moments of sadness, anger, apathy, and even moments of apparent normalcy. Creating a safe space for adolescents to express their emotions without judgment is crucial for their mental well-being.

In conclusion, navigating grief in adolescence is a delicate journey where emotional and developmental aspects intertwine. Cultivating a supportive environment, fostering open communication, and acknowledging the unique challenges faced by grieving adolescents are important steps in helping them navigate the complexities of loss during this formative stage of life.


If your teenager is experiencing grief and you feel that you need more help navigating this, I have specialized training in grief therapy and have worked with adolescents for more than ten years. I am licensed in Illinois and am happy to meet with you and help you or your child traverse the emotional challenges of grief. Please reach out to us at our Glen Ellyn, Chicago (Jefferson Park), Yorkville, or Sycamore offices.



Codie Surratt uses a variety of evidence-based treatments and techniques: mindfulness-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology, strengths-based therapy, and somatic techniques. She also has experience coaching clients to help with short-term goal setting, relationships and job transitions, as well as self-esteem, health, and wellness issues. Codie offers sessions by telehealth or sees clients in-person in the Glen Ellyn office.