How to Cope with a Parent's Grief
We see articles daily about how to cope with grief, but people generally don't talk about how teenagers can cope when our parents grieve.
Parents and guardians are usually seen as a strong, guiding force in our lives. But, that doesn't mean they don't grieve. Chances are, when you grieve a loss, your parents are too. During this time of grief, when we would normally rely on our parents a lot, how can we cope with having a grieving parent?
Having a grieving parent will most likely change your life. Being teens, we have to ask our parents before we do anything, get their assistance, and rely on them more than adult children do, meaning that when they pause their life to grieve, chances are our lives will also be paused.
While you cannot "fix" your parent's grief, just like how you can't "fix" your own, there are many tips you can use to cope while you have a grieving parent.
1. Let Your Parent Know That You Love Them
While you can't "fix" your parent's grief, something as simple as, "I love you," can mean a lot. Giving a few extra hugs and I love you's will go a long way, even if you don't realize it.
2. Realize That You Are Not an Adult
You are a teenager, not an adult, meaning that you don't need to act like an adult in this situation. While it may be your instinct to step in the "parent role" while your parent is struggling, you don't have to do that. If you feel like you need a "parent" because yours is grieving, seek support from an adult in your life, such as a family member.
If you notice that your parent's grief is getting worse instead of better, please contact an adult family member or family friend, so they can check in on your parent. It is not your job to make sure that they are okay: It's your job to take care of yourself.
3. It's Not Your Fault
The second stage of grief is anger, which is common to see among grievers. If you notice that your parent is becoming more upset at you, or at other things, after experiencing a loss, try not to take it personally. If they are asking you to correct your behavior, do it, and then realize that your parent's anger may be because of their loss, not because of whatever they were yelling at you for.
4. Seek Support from a Family Member
We rely on our parents for many things, and during grief they may be unable to provide what we need. If you notice your parent is having a hard time, start relying on another family member for a little bit. For example, if your mom used to help you with your math homework but she's grieving, maybe call your aunt for a week and she can help you.
If your parent still wants to help you, let them. For some people, staying in the same routine is good, and actually helps them. But, if needed, you can always find other family members to rely on.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Like I mentioned in the previous tip, it isn't your job to make sure that your parent is okay: It's your job to take care of yourself. There are plenty of adults that can, and will, step in to take care of your parent, so that should not be your priority.
Yes, it is good to check in on your parent and talk to them, but it's not your responsibility. Make sure you're focusing on yourself, as it is hard to have a grieving parent, and make sure that you are okay.
6. Realize That It Is Okay to Seek Support
If you feel like your grief is overwhelming, and that dealing with a grieving parent is also overwhelming, it is okay to seek support. If you aren't sure where to go, try going in to see your school guidance counselor, who can give you help and support.
If you think that your parent needs support, you can contact a family member, or also talk to your school guidance counselor about what to do.
7. Rely on Your Support System
Just because you may not be able to rely on your parent as much doesn't mean that you can't rely on anyone else. During this time, it's okay to lean on your support system a little extra, and to let them know that you're struggling.
Even if you aren't the one grieving, and it's just your parent, you can still lean on people for a little bit. Being a teenager who is living with a grieving parent can be hard, but it's not impossible.
Living with a grieving parent can be difficult, but it's not impossible. Through all of this, it's important to remember that you are not the adult. If your parent needs help, the only thing you have to do is let someone know, and you don't have to deal with it yourself. Give a few extra hugs, I love you's, and know that your parent needs time to grieve.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.