One of the hardest things to cope with when my Dad died was dealing with other people’s grief. The kids especially were difficult to deal with so now that we’re over the worst of it, I thought I’d share a few ways that I found to help teenagers cope with grief.
When my Dad died, the hospital gave us some books about how to help the kids cope with their grief but when we got them home, they were really aimed at much younger children and really weren’t suitable for teenagers cope with grief.
We got home from the hospital about 4 am and the kids were obviously sound asleep by that point so we left them to sleep and went to be ourselves. We were up before them the next day and waking them to tell them that their Grandad had died was truly awful. We told them as we all sat on our bed and whilst I don’t think it would be right to tell you much about the moments following, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t pleasant.
Teenagers (or at least my teenagers) don’t want to hear right away that their loved one is watching them from heaven or is living on in their hearts (both suggestions in the books we read), they just want your honesty. We explained what it was that had happened to my Dad and why the Doctors hadn’t been able to make him better. They also wanted to know what it was like being there with him when he passed away and we answered all of their questions truthfully.
It’s fair to say that the kids were devastated when we told hem and for a long time that morning, we just sat together without saying very much. You don’t have to fill the silences or try and distract them with something fun – sometimes, you just need to sit and allow them (and you) to cry.
Normal is good
I read somewhere that most teenagers just want to be “normal” and having to deal with the grief that comes from losing a loved one doesn’t make them feel normal. After the initial shock, Master Frugal asked if he could play on his Xbox which was his way of coping with things. He told his friends but after the initial condolences you’d expect, they just treated him as they normally would and that feeling of normal was just what he needed.
Encourage time with friends
Miss Frugal was due to be going skiing a few days after my Dad died and there was a short time when we weren’t sure if she would go but he wouldn’t have wanted her to miss out on something that she’d been looking forward to for so long. As with Master Frugal and his Xbox, this time spent with her friends was just what she needed to help her begin to heal.
I found it hard at first to see both of them getting on with life with their friends but I accepted that this was their way of dealing with things.
Let them help organise the funeral
To me, a funeral is very much about closure so I wanted to help the kids get the closure they needed from my Dad’s funeral. We held off on the date for the funeral until Miss Frugal was back from skiing and we involved them in the plans every step of the way. Master Frugal was adamant that he wanted to put his beloved Wembley Boro scarf in the coffin along with a couple of photos whereas Miss Frugal didn’t have anything she wanted to put in but wanted to help with the music. I made sure I told the celebrant special moments that involved both of the kids and my dad so there was a funny story about each of them during the service too.
Also, I told them exactly what to expect during the funeral so there were no shocks.
Give Them Something to Remember the Person
Lastly, give your teenager something that belonged to their loved one. I gave both of my teenager’s something that belonged to my Dad. I felt this was a good way to help them remain connected to him while coping with the grief of losing him. Sometimes having something tangible to hold onto while they cry or think about previous memories will help.
We also have his watch in the storage box in our living room and every hour, on the hour, it beeps as it has for as long as I can remember. I deliberately put the watch in the box so it wasn’t visible but we all find the beeps comforting in an odd way.
I hope this helps in some way if you’re ever in the sad position of helping a teenager cope with grief but ultimately, there’s no right and wrong way to ever help someone deal with grief – these are just some of the ways that I found useful.
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