Grief that young people experience may be caused by the sudden and tragic death of friends through car accidents, drug overdoses, violence or suicide. It may also be caused by the death of family members through illness, accidents or old age. Whether a death comes ‘out of the blue’, or at the end of a long disease, it can be devastating for a young person unprepared for the intensity of grief.
Some common reactions in young people who are grieving can include:
- shock and disbelief
- feeling unmotivated and depressed
- feeling guilty – perhaps for not being able to save or protect the person who has died
- confusion about how to deal with their powerful emotions
- needing to blame someone
- uncertainty about how to remember the person who has died
- feeling irritable and short-tempered
- wanting to withdraw from family and friends
Young people may have limited experience in dealing with the intense emotions raised by grief. They may be trying to understand mortality for the first time, and this may shake their sense of identity.
Grief may make it difficult to concentrate at school, to make decisions and to remain connected to friends and communities.
Young people need to be supported by people who are close to them: parents, relatives, friends, parents of friends, and teachers. They need to know that it is OK to talk to a professional who can support them to work through their feelings and cope with the impact of their loss.
Parents should not be afraid to display their own grief to their children. It helps young people learn how to deal with grief if they can see their parents grieving.
Young people need to be able to express their grief in their own way and at their own pace. It can help for them have ways to express their feelings – for example, journaling or contributing to tributes on social media.
Allowing opportunities to remember the person who has died can be very important.
Young people can also benefit from time spent with friends and having ‘time out’ from grief.
Supports 12-25 year-olds dealing with their own cancer diagnosis, a close family member’s cancer or the death of a loved one.
ANGLICARE Loss & Grief Support
Offers a range of loss and grief support services including children’s grief counselling, support groups and specialised grief camps.
Provides free support for all children 0-5 years living in South Australia
Evidence-based Australian education programs to support children and young people experiencing loss and grief.
Providing group chats, online communities, and 1:1 direct support
Women’s and Children’s Hospital South Australia
Information about supporting children through grief.
Page last updated: 29 December, 2021