Helping teens grieve, and how to understand your own grief too

Navigating your own personal challenges of grief is hard enough, but when your teenager is faced with it, you might feel more lost than you could imagine. No matter how long you’ve been a parent, this is never going to be a course taken easily. People all respond to grief differently. And if you’re grieving too, it’s even tougher.

This week my family is trying to navigate this ourselves, with the passing of my 14-year-old son’s best friend. She was a gorgeous girl with a warm smile, special to our whole family. The death of a child makes all of us weak, scared and sad, even if we don’t even know the child or family concerned. Horribly, inconceivably, sometimes it might arrive within your community, or worse still, in your own circle.

When it did, I was at a loss. My 21 years of parenting experience were useless. I’d never done this before. But I guess my experience really did help because I reached out immediately to people I thought might be able to help us. I knew my limits. This was way, way beyond them.

That was big. I learned I didn’t need to have all the answers. I just needed to reach out and ask others I was confident were better informed and able to put me on a solid path with professional services and advice. I didn’t use Google. I didn’t play matriarch. I’m holding my family members’ hands and together we are taking this journey.

The child who passed away’s mom is amazing. She is fantastic, and it’s easy to see where that young lady we all adored was inspired to be such an incredible girl. I have come to know her quite well in the last few days, and know we will continue to be part of each others’ lives. I can not imagine her grief. All I can do is be sorry, and do anything I can to help.

I wanted to share with you one thing that I got this week from a counsellor, which will help you if you ever find yourself in a position of navigating the path of grief. Written for teens, it’s also relevant for anyone. And please, reach out to the myriad services available for help 24/7. It’s better to do it even if it ends up being not necessary than to suffer a single day longer than needed.

PS: If you’re a blogger, please can I encourage you to make a standard commitment to include contact numbers for relevant professional services in any human or pet need category when you make a post about the topic (eg: Lifeline, etc) Research shows that people with intent to harm themselves may do a little Google-based investigating first. Providing them with contact numbers if they are in that mindset might save a life. This is the beginning of recognizing yourself as a responsible member of media.


In the USA: The National Suicide Prevention Life Line: 1-800Suicide (1-800-784-2433)

In Australia: Lifeline: 13 11 14

In Australia: Kids Helpline: 1-800-55-1800


By Linda Cunningham.

Courtesy of HospiceCare Grief and Education Center, Boulder.


  1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Some days you can handle the feelings that surface, and some days you may ‘fall apart.’ These ‘ups and downs’ are a natural reaction to loss.
  2. Go ahead and cry. Tears are a natural and necessary part of grieving. They are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign that you have loved.
  3. Express feelings of anger with someone you trust. Suppressed anger can lead to prolonged depression and poor physical health.
  4. Tell people what you need. People may avoid you because they are afraid that they will say the wrong thing. When you let others know what you need, they are usually grateful.
  5. Be good to yourself. Get the rest you need, balanced with regular exercise and a good diet. You may not feel motivated to do these things no, by they are crucial to your physical and mental well-being.
  6. Give in ways that you can. Giving to others will assist you in your own healing. Consider joining a grief support group. As you benefit from the love and courage of group members, your presence and personal story will also be helpful to them.
  7. Write in a journal. Record your thoughts and feelings. Get them ‘out of your system’.
  8. Do not make major decisions too quickly. Change requires lots of energy. Put that energy into taking good care of yourself
  9. Maintain a support system. Whether they are family or friends, make sure you have someone to talk to.
  10. Believe in yourself. Think of all the reasons your loved one cared for you. These qualities are still present and will help you find strength and meaning in the future.


  • Praying for your family, the girl’s family, and anyone whose life she touched. (hug)

  • Thank you for this post. Grief is tough for anyone to deal with, but even more so for those who are young and still trying to figure out this funny old world.

    My thoughts are with you all, and the family of the girl who passed.

  • Thank you for sharing, Jo. Fwiw, one of my campers also committed suicide when he was not much older than your son’s friend. It’s a terrible thing for teens, and letting them know that it’s ok to be affected, and to have feelings, is so crucial. Thoughts & hugs to you & yours. <3

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