Like most teens, when I first started grieving I knew almost nothing about grief. I would spend hours online searching things on Google like "how do teenagers grieve" and "how to help a grieving teen," which was slightly helpful, but also didn't give me all of the information I needed.
While grief is different for everyone, there are some basic pieces of advice that tend to apply to most people. These are things that I've learned during my grief journey, and that I wish I had known earlier on.
#1 - Things are hard right now, but they won't always be that way
When my dad died, I felt absolutely horrible. I didn't know much about grief, so I was anxious that I would feel horrible for the rest of my life.
Now, I can happily report that things are a lot better. Grief is quite overwhelming at first, and while there still are moments that I feel overwhelmed, it's gotten a lot better.
#2 - Weird emotions are normal
A few weeks after my dad's death, I found myself quite angry at him. If I hadn't learned about the five stages of grief (which includes anger), I would've thought that I was crazy for being mad at my dad. How could I be angry at a dead person?
Anger is normal, and so are all sorts of random emotions. Grief is an intense process, and if you suddenly find yourself feeling some weird things, know that it's okay and normal.
#3 - Life isn't the same. That's okay.
I've changed a lot since my dad's death. My priorities, friends, and interests all have been affected by my grief. At first, I tried to avoid this change, but as time went on I've realized that it's okay.
Life isn't going to be the same, which is scary to think about. Change isn't always bad, though. My grief made me realize how much I want to help others, and is why I created this website. I've learned to embrace the changes that have come with grief and make the best out of them.
#4 - Your support system expects you to not be okay
I felt terrible for relying on my friends after my dad died. I felt like I was overwhelming them with my problems and that they probably thought something was wrong with me.
It actually took witnessing a few friend's grief for me to realize that my support system expected me to not be fine. After my friends lost someone, I'd always check in on them, expect them to not be okay, and wasn't bothered when they relied on me a little bit more. This made me realize that my friends probably felt the same way after my dad died.
Relying on your friends a bit more after a loss is normal. They probably expect you to do that. So, if you need to reach out to someone, don't hesitate to do so.
#5 - Don't avoid your emotions
Losing my dad during my school year meant that it was easier for me to ignore my grief and pretend like everything was fine.
That was probably one of the worst things I've ever done.
I speak from personal expereince when I say, grief doesn't just go away magically. When you choose to ignore your emotions, they just build up and make you feel a lot worse when you finally confront them.
If you feel sad, let yourself feel sad. If you feel mad, let yourself feel mad. Let yourself feel your emotions, and you will be a lot better off in the long run.
#6 - Talk to people about grief, even if it isn't the same as yours
None of my close friends had lost a parent, so I never really asked them about my grief after my dad died. I felt so alone, and continued feeling that way until one of my friends started talking about her grief.
As my friend talked, I was shocked at how much better I felt, and how similar her grief was to mine, even though she hadn't lost a parent. Yes, there were some things that she didn't understand, but we both had gone through similar emotions, similar experiences with friends, and more. Ever since then, I've always talked to people about their grief, even if it isn't the same as mine, and it's made me feel a lot better.
#7 - Routines are good, but you can take a break from yours
I didn't miss a single full day of school after my dad died. Instead, I'd come in late every afternoon. While keeping my routine was good for me in some aspects, it ended up making me feel overwhelmed and like I didn't have enough time to grieve.
What I wish I had done was just taken a little break. Missing a few days of school would've helped me a lot, but I felt like I couldn't do that.
If you feel overwhelmed by going right back to your usual routine, take a little break. I could've done my school work at home, or made it up when I came back, and you can too. You don't have to force yourself into living your "normal" life right after grief.
#8 - There are people who understand
Like I said on #6, none of my close friends had lost a parent. I felt really alone at first, beacuse even though my friends tried to understand, they really couldn't. Logically, I knew that there were other teenagers who had lost a parent, but because I wasn't around them I felt like I was the only one.
Even if you aren't around people who have gone through a similar loss, there are people experiencing what you are. After searching for quite awhile, I've found multiple blogs by people who went through what I am, which reminds me that I'm not alone.
#9 - Grief lasts forever, but it gets easier
When I first found out that grief doesn’t just go away after a few weeks, I was devastated. I thought that the rest of my life would be as horrible as the first few months after my dad’s death, and I felt quite hopeless.
The truth is, grief doesn’t go away, but it gets a lot easier. Yes, there are times when I have what I call “grief relapses,” where things are a lot harder than usual with my grief, but as time passes and you learn how to cope, grief gets a lot easier.
#10 - Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is admitting you’re not okay
I felt like I needed to be the "strong" one after my dad died. Family and friends would come up to me and say things like "How are you so strong, Natalie?" and "I'm proud of you for being so strong." While they meant well, things like that made me feel like I had to keep on pretending to be strong, even though I felt like I was falling apart on the inside.
Admitting that you aren't okay isn't a sign of weakness - it's a sign of strength. People mean well when they talk about how strong you are, but they won't be disappointed if you reveal that you're not okay. You don't have to pretend like everything is fine.
I hope those 10 things helped you, and if you have any others that you wish you would've known at the beginning of your grief be sure to comment them below.
Grief is tough, but we can get through this.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Dan Meyers.