There are many different characteristics of grief and everyone’s journey will be different based on their relationship with the deceased, as well as other factors. Grief is a normal reaction that doesn’t feel or appear normal. Because everyone is different and many reactions to grief are normal, it may be difficult to identify when a child or teen needs help or extra support.
Parents and guardians should look at what their children’s behaviors were like before the death. Is this new behavior much different or is it an intense version of how they usually behave? What is the intensity or duration of their grief reactions? When you have these answers, your next question should be, are these behaviors and reactions to grief limiting my child or teen’s ability to live their life? When you can answer yes, it may be time to seek out additional resources.
For example, it is normal to have difficulty sleeping when grieving whether it be too much or too little. A red flag or a sign to look for could be if your child hasn’t slept in weeks and now they are having a hard time with their daily functioning because of lack of rest, or if they are sleeping so much that they have missed significant amounts of school and don’t even get out of bed.
Everyone’s boundaries for concern will be different too. For example, maybe your teenager had a hard time getting up in the morning before the death so your concern may not be as high as for someone else. As a parent or guardian, a good rule of thumb for monitoring your children’s grief is intensity, duration and the effects it has on their quality and functioning of life.