Helping teenagers cope with death

Young people and teenagers have a greater understanding of death than children. But it's important to remember that they're not adults.

Grieving as a teenager

Young people and teenagers are aware of the emotional impact, and long term implications, of losing someone close.

However, due to the developmental changes and puberty, their reactions to death are often very intense.

It’s important to remember that teenagers are not grown ups. They might look like they’re grieving like adults but they need to be treated as a young person.

In order to help teenagers cope with death, we must understand what they might be experiencing.

What they might experience

  • Have difficulty managing strong emotions, becoming angry. They might end up in physical fights.
  • Get upset and feeling the death was unjust. They might ask why the person who has died had to die, and talk about wider ideas about fate and mortality.
  • Revert back to childish behaviour to feel more safe.
  • Get involved with risky behaviours to distract from grief.
  • Become concerned about who will pay the bills or care for them, especially if the person who died was their primary caregiver.
  • Try to assume the role of an adult.
  • Bottle up their emotions.
  • Seek support outside their immediate family.

How to help teenagers cope with death

  • Make sure they’re not burdened with tasks, especially any a responsible adult can do instead.
  • Let them know it’s okay if they prefer to speak with friends, or people outside of the immediate family, about the death.
  • Gently encourage them to open up, express their emotions and share how they’re feeling.
  • Reassure them that they are loved and supported.
  • If they’re self-medicating or self-harming, get in touch with a medical professional.

Find resources

Visit Hope Again, our website for children and young people and get resources for children struggling with grief.