A Teen's Guide to Coping with Grief 

Grief is the pain we feel when someone we know dies. Grief is ongoing and changing. One day you may feel numb and the next day, out of control. Grief is a natural reaction to process the loss of a friend, family member, or pet. Everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve or a set amount of time it will last.

Some Ways that Grief May Affect You

The way you feel:

  • Shock
  • Numb
  • Angry
  • Impatient or irritable
  • Regret such as “I wish I would have told them I loved them.” or “I wish I wouldn’t have had a fight with them.”
  • Guilty
  • Fear
  • Sad or lonely
  • Overwhelmed or insecure
  • Relief, such as “They suffered for so long.” or “They were abusive to me so why should I feel sad?”

Your body:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomachaches or feeling sick
  • Body aches or a lump in your throat
  • Restless or too active
  • Headaches
  • No energy
  • No appetite or increased appetite
  • Weight loss or gain

The way you think:

  • Trouble making decisions
  • Confused and forgetful
  • Disorganized
  • Dwelling on death
  • Hopeless
  • Disbelief that the person is dead

How you act:

  • Feeling different or left out
  • Withdrawn
  • Avoiding people or places that remind you of your loss
  • Worried about being home alone

Your beliefs:

  • Loss of faith. Questioning your faith or angry at your faith.
  • A strengthened faith.
  • Wanting to connect with a church or group to feel a sense of family.
  • Searching for the meaning of life.
  • Feeling a connection with the person who died.
  • Questioning why bad things happen.

Behaviors to Watch Out For

The support of friends and family will help you handle most grief responses. But you might notice some other behaviors that could be harmful. If you see any of these, it is important to get help. Talk with your parent, guardian, friend, school counselor or another adult who can help you.

If you don't know who to call for help for yourself or a friend, reach out to the national crisis line at 1-888-826-0099 or text MN @ 741741.

Get help if you notice you are:

  • Taking on too much responsibility.
  • Feeling stressed most of the time.
  • Worrying a lot about your health or the health of others.
  • Isolating yourself.
  • Fighting with your friends and family.
  • Using sex, drugs, gambling or alcohol as a way to cope.
  • Failing school.
  • Refusing to go to school or stay in school.
  • Having suicidal thoughts.
  • Harming yourself, such as cutting.
  • Not eating or binge eating.
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much.

Other Ways Death Affects You

Death can change other areas of your life. These changes can also cause grief. They may include:

  • Changes in your role in the family. For example, you may have more responsibility if a parent died. You may feel that you can no longer be a child. 
  • Changes in your relationships with friends. These may be due to a move, having less time, or feeling that you don’t have anything in common anymore. 
  • Changes in your relationship with other family members.
  • Feeling guilty is common. You may feel like the death was your fault or that it should have been you that died. You may wish that you had not thought or said some things.

How to Deal with Grief

  • Find a creative outlet or activity.
  • Express yourself with music, art or writing.
  • Stay active. Play a sport, work out, take walks, join a team, ride a bike, or just play.
  • Get back to your normal routines. Get back into the routines of school and home. Hang out with friends, go to work or social events. These familiar routines will help you feel more normal and give your life some structure.
  • Share your feelings. Talk to a friend or family member who really listens. Write about it in a journal, blog, poem, song or story. Join a grief support group.
  • Try to relax. Use deep breathing and meditation to calm your body.
  • Scream into a pillow, scribble on paper or, rip up paper if you feel anger.
  • Take a break. Let yourself take a break from grief and do something you enjoy without feeling guilty. Grief is hard work and tiring. Sometimes you just need to recharge. It’s okay to do this.
  • Remember that grief can make growing up harder than usual.
  • Ask for a tutor or help with your homework if you have a hard time staying focused.
  • Ask for what you need. Let adults know that you:
    • Want and need to be included in
      important decisions.
    • Don’t want to be treated like a child.
    • Need the same space and respect as an
      adult.
    • Don’t want to stand out from others.
    • Have limited resources available.

Honor and Remember the Person Who Died

Even though they are not with you in person, they are a part of who you are and will always be with you. You can:

  • Take part in the funeral and memorial services
  • Talk about the person who died
  • Display pictures
  • Make a photo album or memory book
  • Keep your family traditions
  • Play their favorite music
  • Eat or prepare their favorite food
  • Light a candle
  • Talk to them
  • Visit the cemetery
  • Write about them in a journal, poem, song or story
  • Plant a tree or a memory garden
  • Have a ceremony
  • Make a donation to a charity in their memory

Looking for Support?

Call Grief Support Services at 218-786-4402 for more information regarding counseling and grief support groups for children, teens, and adults.