Understanding what your teen is feelingYou can certainly understand that your teen is overwhelmed by the sadness of losing someone who meant something to him. But do you know everything that he is feeling?
- Guilt. Survivors' guilt is not just an issue amongst survivors of accidents. Your teen may feel guilty for not knowing their friend was at that low point. He may also have known but didn’t take action. The guilt he feels can be all-consuming.
- Anger. The anger may stem from his inability to help his friend when he needed help the most. Or it might be directed at the friend for taking this action. Your teen may not even know why he’s angry.
- Confusion. Torn between everything he’s feeling, sometimes all at once, it’s understandable that your teen may feel some level of confusion.
- Sadness. Loss is sad. There’s just no getting around that. Your teen’s sadness will be there even when he has processed everything else he is struggling with.
- Regret. Perhaps your teen regrets not telling his friend how he felt about him or regrets not telling someone when his friend expressed suicidal thoughts.
- Lost for answers. Your teen may be trying to find answers to his questions. The reality is that he’s unlikely to get the answers he wants.
Helping your teen copeHow can you walk side-by-side with your teen after he’s lost someone to suicide? Each situation will be based upon factors unique to your teen and his relationship with his lost friend. Remember that your role is to listen, learn, and allow your teen to take the lead as he processes his grief. Understandably, you want to support your teen and try to help him get through his grief. But in many situations, teens will see this as you being intrusive. There are a few options you can pursue to show your support:
- Provide your teen with outside support and resources he can access as he feels comfortable doing so. This may come in the form of grief counseling and support groups.
- Speak with teachers and school administrators if your teen is not ready to return to school. There may be a solution to help him avoid falling too far behind in his studies.
- Be a companion and a source of comfort and support. Be nearby when needed but not so close that he feels smothered.
If your teen expresses suicidal thoughtsYour teen shouldn’t be criticized for how he needs to grieve. That said, there are red flags that should mean you intervene. Some of these red flags could include engaging in destructive behaviors to numb what he’s feeling, including the following:
- Alcohol use and abuse
- Drug use and abuse
- Trouble at school
- Reckless sexual behavior
- Antisocial behavior