Managing Grief and Loss

Students and their families often approach the holidays with “fresh wounds” from a recent loss.  The loss may be a grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, or even an adored pet.  Making the way through a first holiday after a loss can be very painful.  While it is important for those grieving to talk about a loved one, it is equally important to make new rituals to help aid in the healing process.  The benefit of the family openly grieving together has powerful healing potentials.  There are many ways to create new family rituals such as having a celebration dinner with a different relative or serving a dinner at a homeless shelter.

Keep an eye out for family members who appear withdrawn and involve them in the planning of what a new holiday might look like. Some ideas could include: packing a lunch and heading to the tide pools, sharing a favorite story about the deceased, watching a sunset, or planting a tree.

For young people it is often challenging to discern normal adolescent behavior from that of a grieving teen in trouble.  Some indicators that a teen may need added support include:

  • Dramatic changes in behavior
  • Isolation or Depression
  • Anger
  • Truancy or Decline in academic performance
  • Guilt or Confusion
  • Substance Use

Following a loss, teenagers often feel a heightened sense of grief and sadness because developmentally so many things in their lives are in flux.  Remember not to minimize or overlook the feelings of young people who are experiencing loss because adolescents often have difficulties verbally expressing grief.