Teens and death
For a vibrant teen, glowing with the sense of immortality, a loved one’s death is a hard rite of passage.
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Although most people experience the loss of loved ones as traumatic, adolescents experience death particularly deeply since it explodes their sense of immortality and supreme.

Death compromises the adolescent’s sense of safety within the world. Complex emotions and questions arise as a result of death. Psychologically death is not part of adolescence, which is a time of libido and intense living. When adolescents have to confront death it is both intrusive and cruel.

The stages adolescents experience when negotiating the death of a significant person are not dissimilar to those of adults. Stages of shock, numbness, denial, search, anger, guilt, bargaining and despair are part of the healthy process of mourning.

When someone close or special to them dies, adolescents are often faced with spiritual thoughts and will contemplate more significantly what they believe about life after death, while older adolescents may consider existential notions around the meaning of life. These are important considerations, which require parents and significant adults to be present and attentive.

Coping with a family death
  • It can take at least two years for the healthy mourning process to take its course and for the grieving person to being to manage the altered world in which they find themselves.
  • Grieving adolescents require patience and support  as they experience the process of mourning.
  • The topic of death and dying should not be avoided and parents can help their adolescents move towards maturity by guiding them in supporting bereaved friends.
  • The loss of a child is one of the worst pains imaginable. The parent’s world alters forever and they have to be extremely courageous if there are remaining siblings since those children will need their parents to continue in loving support of them.
  • Usually men and women mourn differently, but the pain for both parents is equally intense.

Has your teen experienced loss? How have you – and he or she -handled it?

   This is an extract from The Adolescent Storm by Meg Fargher and Helen Dooley (Penguin).

Read our book review here.

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