Teen Grief and Loss Treatment
The death of a loved one can be especially traumatic to teens. In fact, many don’t even encounter loss until well into their teen years. A sudden and unexpected death, traumatic accident, or seeing someone pass after a long illness can cause them to experience sensations of intense grief. Teens who don’t know how to handle these feelings often end up stuck in a cycle, battling pain and grief, which leads to trouble functioning in everyday life long after what is considered a normal grieving time has passed.
What Does Grief Look Like?
- While grieving is normal and healthy, severe grief can make a teen feel paralyzed and as though they can’t continue to function normally.
- Abnormal grief patterns include feeling down or depressed for months after a loss.
- Individuals who are having trouble dealing with grief often shelve their responsibilities or have trouble at school or work.
Signs of Grief and Loss
Insomnia, hypersomnia, and bad dreams
Weight and appetite changes
Lack of concentration and confusion
Anger and intense mood swings
Intense guilt and/or shame
Depression and/or Anxiety
Substance abuse disorders
What Causes Grief?
Suffering is one of the primary causes of grief, but it isn’t suffering we deal with ourselves; it is suffering that has impacted the people we love. Sensations of loss trigger grief, but the level of grief we feel is directly related to how close we were to the person who passed and how we feel about their suffering before death.
Chronic illnesses, like cancer or AIDS, are very difficult to watch in the end stages. There are unpleasant side effects and patients are often in a great deal of pain. Watching this type of trauma makes it more difficult for some to work through their grief, making it unbearable. Grief impacts us not only at the loss of human loved ones, but when we lose pets as well.
Americans under 25 have lost a loved one.
kids lose a parent before their 15th birthday.
of teen grief sufferers will also be diagnosed with PTSD.
How Can I Help My Teen with Grief?
Make sure your teen knows grief is normal – There is nothing wrong with grief itself; in fact, it is a healthy and needed emotion for some people. Not feeling a need to grieve is perfectly acceptable , too.
It’s important for everyone involved to understand that people process grief differently, as grieving is a very personal process. Keep the lines of communication open so that your teen understands that they way they feel – whether they are grieving or not – is perfectly acceptable.
Offer support instead of treatment – Grief isn’t something that needs to be “treated,” per say, at least if it is part of the normal experience of loss. However, some people do need support and help to get through it. Help your teen to understand that it is perfectly acceptable to grieve, but that there are healthy ways to get through the process. It’s important to find aspects of your life you can enjoy together, despite your grief, so that your teen doesn’t lash out or turn to drugs and other dangerous behavioral patterns to avoid pain.
You don’t need permission to miss someone – It’s perfectly OK to miss your partner, parent, friend, aunt, uncle, pet, or anyone else you felt close to. You should never feel bad about thinking of them, sharing their memories, and spending time simply acknowledging that you miss them.
It takes time to look back on memories without feeling intense grief, but it is important to remember that your grief should never leave you feeling debilitated. Your teen needs to understand that feeling may never leave entirely, but lessens over time.
What Types of Teen Grief and Loss Treatment are Available?
Support is critical for anyone dealing with grief. The teen brain is still forming, so they are especially susceptible to traumatic events. Younger brains process negative emotions differently than adult brains, making it more difficult for them to process their experiences. This can have a long-lasting effect if it is ignored.
Are you noticing your teen having trouble coping with grief? Don’t set any sort of imaginary benchmark for when it is “bad enough” to seek treatment. Start looking for help as soon as you notice symptoms. The sooner your teen has a strong support system, the sooner they’ll realize they can and will work through their emotions. Therapy isn’t just for someone unable to cope with their grief; it can be a significant benefit during the normal grieving process, too.
At Paradigm San Francisco, our therapists understand that each teen is unique, as are the circumstances around their loss. We are careful to be gentle in both the design and execution of their treatment plans, always adhering to the idea that there is no real right or wrong way to grieve. Our goal is to supply teens with a supportive environment where they can explore their experiences and emotions as they pertain not only to the event or loss, but also to their future.
Teens overcome with grief find it difficult to stay organized; this often manifests as failing marks in school, messy surroundings, or repeated forgotten chores and appointments. Therapy gives teens a lifeline that provides much-needed structure in the form of a daily routine, both before and during grief counseling. Simply providing structure takes away some of the stress of having to “manage” a day. Therapists don’t tell teens exactly what to do; instead, they work with the teen to help them discover their options. This approach forces a teens to focus on themselves instead of on the past. They’re able to get out of their heads and begin moving past their grief.
Talk therapy is critical to grief and loss treatment. While a lot of teens struggle with starting to open a dialogue about grief, they do find it is helpful and becomes easier with each session.
Paradigm’s therapists create environments in which teens feel safe and secure, encouraging them to open up about their emotions. Talk therapy will keep your teen from creating a false sense of guilt and can help them avoid getting stuck in an endless negative thought pattern. Teens who begin talking about their loss regularly often feel a huge sense of relief. Helping them to understand they aren’t grieving alone is critical.
Medication never replaces therapy, but can be used to supplement it in cases where a teen’s grief is causing additional symptoms, such as situational Depression. Even short-term medication can help bring a teen back to a level playing field, helping them to better work through their feelings and attitudes towards grief while alleviating thoughts of self-harm or potential suicide.
Psychiatrists often prescribe antidepressants when intense grief causes feelings of Anxiety and severe Depression. SSRIs have minimal side effects and don’t necessarily need to be used long-term; for some, they may be used for as little as six months. The majority of teens do not need medication on top of their therapy and counseling sessions.
Teen Grief and Loss Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco
Our goal at Paradigm San Francisco is to help teens develop a healthy coping methods as they work through their individual grieving processes. Our in-patient atmosphere takes away the outside influences, such as school, relationships, and personal responsibilities, as well as other stressful influences, so teens can focus on healing. It is a safe environment in which they can grieve, work through their emotions, and address any additional mental health issues they’re experience with their peers by their side.
Support through times of bereavement is even more important if your teen has already been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Left unchecked, grief can cause your teen’s other symptoms to progress. The therapists at Paradigm San Francisco specialize in helping teens grieve while at the same time monitoring and treating other psychiatric concerns.
“ Making the daunting decisions of where to get help for your loved one is a very tall mountain of considerations. After screening the hundreds of available resources.... 98% of them are eliminated. The remaining possibilities: phone interviews, accessible in distance or communications with the treatment center and your child. Is it even possible to be involved in your child/ family's healing? The few possible options upon touring the facility was the real eye opener! Everything looked good on the website....the phone interview was good, and even hopeful.....Not!! Finally !!! The one center, Paradigm Malibu has the most comprehensive treatments available. Ranging from traditional to alternatives that have proven success. Combining the individual, family, and group sessions daily is hard work for the adolescent. The reward is unbelievable for your child! A real honest sense of a calmer understanding of themselves. A maturity happens....and even smiles, hugs and laughter come with renewed confidence for them. I am so grateful for their expertise and passion for what they do for their clients..... The child that I once knew has returned, better, stronger, and willing to be happy!!
Thank you so much Paradigm Malibu!! “
– Tommy J.
Frequently Asked Question About Teen Grief and Loss
Talking isn’t going to bring my loved one back; why bother with therapy?
You’re right about therapy not bringing your loved one back, but therapy might be just what you need to get back to your life. Treatment is about looking towards your future while learning better mechanisms for dealing with grief.
We know that looking forward feels impossible. We won’t rush you into the future, but we want to show you that it’s still there for you. The past will always be a part of your personal history, but we can help you to work through the pain and see a brighter future.
When will my grief end?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Grief and loss therapy isn’t going to make your grieving period slow down or go faster. You may have memories or struggle with your thoughts of the past for quite some time. The goal is to give you the tools you need to work through your thoughts, avoid self-harm, and live your life in the present.