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What Adults Can Learn from Teen Grievers

Getty Images / JGI / Jamie Grill

Teens grieve differently than adults do, and some of their practices may be healthier.

We adults have a lot to offer teens by way of experience. We expect them to learn from us. And yet, there are times when adults can learn from them.

When a teenager dies, it’s often the first experience with death for the teens who knew them. Teens grieve for their peers differently than adults do, and some of their practices are healthy.


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Here’s what adults can learn from teens:

Teens grieve in groups. They congregate together during the funeral and afterwards. They huddle together in circles and grieve in a communal manner.

They frequently comfort each other by hugging.

Teens grieve openly and don't try to "put on a face." They're not embarrassed to cry.

Teens are memory keepers. They share their stories no matter the relationship; whether they were a friend, a classmate, intimate, or just an acquaintance, they will dredge up every contact, every shared experience, and reminisce. 

A teen funeral attracts hundreds of teens; everyone turns out, even if they hardly knew the deceased.

Teens use online forums to express their grief. Months later, they continue to post and share feelings and memories.

So how can adults grieve more like teens?

We can show our support for the bereaved and make sure to turn out for the funeral, whether it’s a neighbor, colleague, congregational member, former teacher, or an acquaintance from the community. We can grieve more openly, not being afraid to shed our tears in front of others. We can look after each other, grieving in groups so we share our loss. We can comfort each other with hugs and shared feelings, so no one has to feel alone in their grief. We too can be memory keepers, searching for encounters and stories and sharing them with the bereaved family and our peers so we don’t forget. While we don’t want to overwhelm the bereaved family, we do want to visit, keep them company, listen, comfort them, and share their loss. We can use a forum (online or off) to express our grief, perhaps even addressing notes, letters, and emails to the bereaved to express our grief and let others know we remember their loved ones and they won't be forgotten.

While teens will continue to learn from us, there’s a lot we adults can learn from them if we’re open to new perspectives.


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Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.