How Adolescents 12-17 Cope with Grief
To the emotionally healthy adolescent, death is foreign; it's something they simply do not want to think about. Sometimes their self-destructive behavior, such as alcohol or drug abuse or playing chicken in an automobile are means of saying "I'm not afraid of death; it's a game--I'm making a plaything of it."
However, the real meaning beneath the behavior is that they're trying to control their fear and insecurity by making it a game. Moving fast and keeping the music loud can be an escape from having to face their fears.
When met with the loss of an important relationship, the adolescent's self-centered values may cause them great fear, guilt, anxiety, and anger. Adolescents have the capacity for empathy with other grieving family members or friends, so their pain is doubled.
Because an adolescent forms more intimate relationships with peers than with parents, it's advisable that networks or groups be make available for adolescents who have experienced the death of a loved one.
The adolescent may respond well to another adult who is willing to listen and assume a surrogate parent role with them. While reluctant to participate in their own family grief or support groups, they may respond well to a pastor, school counselor, or another adolescent who "understands."
Caretakers of a grieving adolescent should not be discouraged if their teen reaches to someone other than family. That's normal at this stage of development.