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Dealing with loss and grief

A girl standing alone near lockers looking sad.

Real help

Dealing with grief can be very hard. You don't have to face it alone. Get support by phone, text, chat, or email from a special helpline for teens. If you are looking for escape in things like drinking or drugs, remember that they can cause big problems. Keep in mind that if you don't find healthy ways to cope, your grief can get even worse.

Everyone faces something very upsetting at some point in their lives. Teens may have to deal with the death of someone they love, their parents' divorce, violence, or abuse, for example. These very upsetting experiences can bring up lots of feelings. There are ways to cope, though, and we have information that can help.

What is grief? arrow. top

"Grief" and "grieving" are used to describe the feelings a person has after a death or other loss. You also may feel grief after a really hard experience (sometimes called a trauma) like being attacked or your home getting destroyed. That is because the experience has caused you to lose important parts of the way your life used to be.

Feeling grief is normal. Every person has her own reactions to loss. Here are some reactions you might have if you are grieving:

  • Strong emotions, such as sadness, anger, worry, or guilt
  • Few or no feelings, like you are emotionally numb
  • Crying spells or feeling like there's a lump in your throat
  • Physical reactions, such as having stomach aches or not sleeping
  • Spiritual reactions, like feeling disappointed in your religion or feeling even more connected to it

Grief can go on for many months, but it should lessen over time. Everyone is different, but you should expect to feel at least a little better after a couple of months. If your grief doesn't get better over time, you may need the help of a therapist. Also, you should reach out for help without waiting if you have signs of depression. These include feeling worthless, having trouble functioning in your life, or thinking about hurting yourself.

How can I deal with grief?

Grief can be hard to handle. If you’re feeling grief after a serious trauma like a violent attack, talk to an adult you trust and see if therapy may help you feel better. Check out the list below for other tips on handling grief.

Different people handle grief in different ways. Ways of handling grief include the following:

photo album showing various old photographs

Looking through old photo albums is one way to do this.

What to do when parents divorce arrow. top

If your parents are getting divorced, it's normal to feel grief. So much of your life may be changing, and you may not have much control over what happens. You may feel angry, sad, lonely, scared, and lots of other emotions. All this can take time to heal.

A girl sitting at a table while her parents argue behind her.

There are many things you can do to feel better about a divorce. For starters, you can remember that divorce is never a child's fault.

Talk to your parents about how you're feeling. Tell them what would make the divorce easier on you. Get help from friends. You might also consider joining a support group for kids of divorcing parents. Your parents, school nurse, school counselor, or other adults can help you look for one. Also, see if you can think about any personal strengths that helped you in hard times before. And check out some of our tips for dealing with grief.

How to deal with loss and military life arrow. top

If you have a family member in the military, you may have losses even if your relative never gets hurt. You may miss your relative when that person is away, or feel sad, worried, or angry a lot. And it can be hard to adjust when that person comes back.

You can use our general tips for handling grief, plus some special ways military kids can cope:

  • Ask about how things are going to change when your family member gets deployed. Find out about any new responsibilities or privileges you may have.
  • Try not to put your life on hold while your family member is deployed. Set goals and make plans for yourself.
  • Figure out how and when you're going to stay in touch with the family member who is away.
  • Keep track of important moments to share with your family member. Make a film, write a blog, or create a photo journal.
  • Help your family keep up important traditions. Consider creating new ones.
  • Connect with other people who can relate. You might look into a support group or even a camp for military kids.
  • Spend special time together when your family member comes back. Keep plans simple, though. Expect it to take time for that person to fit back into home life.

You can get more tips from a website for military kids, plus games, personal stories, and ways to connect with other people facing similar challenges.


Content last reviewed January 07, 2015
Page last updated March 12, 2015