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Talking to Teens About Death

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Children Teens Death Bereavement

Teenagers are not young children, they understand that death is a fact of life. Teens will have come across the concept of death in music, movies, books, religious training, family discussions and more.

When a death does occur, teens generally do not need the same talks as younger children about where the deceased went and what it is like where the deceased is now. But this does not meant that teens won’t suffer from bereavement or that they won’t want to talk about the particular death.

Helping Teens Deal With Grief And Bereavement

Teenagers, so the stereotypes go, are moody creatures. They can be sullen, intensely private and uncommunicative. None of these traits will help teens reach out if they suffer from grief and bereavement, so adults will need to remain vigilant about any changes to a teen’s behaviour. Changes to sleeping habits, eating habits, study habits, work habits and/or socialising with others may all be signs of a teen’s bereavement. So too may be anti-social behaviours that are a teen’s way of acting out his or her emotions.

Just as an adult would approach a child who may be unable to verbalise his or her thoughts, so too should an adult approach a teen on a regular basis with an invitation to talk. If teens are not comfortable opening up with someone they know then a grief counsellor might be another option to help teens deal with grief and bereavement.

Helping Teens Remember The Deceased

Very often teens who have lost a loved one will need help remembering the deceased. Teens may not ask for this help directly, and indeed teens may not even realise that that’s what they want. However, teens should not be treated like children at this time.

If teens decide on their own to write poems, create a collage or otherwise do something to remember the deceased then they may not want someone hovering over their shoulders while they do it. But teens who would like to organise a memorial service, take a trip, visit a cemetery or otherwise remember a loved on in a larger way may need help from adults.

Teens may need help with finances, transportation, scheduling and organising larger events to help remember the deceased and they may only ask once and not again if this help is not forthcoming. However, this does not mean that adults must engage in every whim. Instead, adults should discuss the teen’s wishes and why the teen wants to remember their loved one in this way. When every party involved feels confident in the plan there is no doubt it will lead to a grand remembrance for the deceased.

Talking to teens about death is not the same as trying to explain general concepts to young children. Teens were children once, and as they grew they came to understand the concept of death. This means that talking to teens about a death generally involves more concrete discussions. Teens may also require help to work through their grief and to remember the deceased. If teens won’t open up to a close adult then seeking a grief counsellor may be an option.

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