Grief and Loss- Youth

How do youth experience grief?

Big losses, such as the death of someone close, can result in a youth experiencing many different thoughts and feelings. This is grief. Youth will grieve for many different reasons.  They may grieve the death of people or pets who are close to them.  They might also grieve changes such as separation from parents or caregivers, illness, and the changing of schools or neighbourhoods.  

Youth can understand death the same way as adults. However, they are still developing positive ways to cope which may make it more difficult for them to deal with grief and loss.  Youth may try to look 'normal' to fit in with their peers and may try to hide and avoid their feelings. They may be irritable, have an increase in mood swings, have difficulty focusing, and may become fearful.  In some cases, youth may use substances such as alcohol or drugs as an attempt to cope.  

If you are worried that a youth's symptoms are severe, or that they have lasted too long, speak with your family doctor or other  medical professional

Talking about Death and Dying 

Talk to youth in an open and honest way about death and dying:  

  • Encourage them to talk about their thoughts and feelings.  Tell them that it is okay to feel happy, even though they are grieving. 
  • Tell them the truth and listen to what they are saying.  Give them time to ask questions and to share their feelings. 
  • Tell youth that what they are feeling is normal and it is okay to cry. Help them to express their feelings.  
  • Encourage positive ways to cope such as talking to someone they trust, physical activity and continuing with activities they enjoy. 
  • Help youth to feel safe and secure.  Try to keep their routines the same as before. 
  • Ask youth to contribute to the funeral and/or burial planning and selection of memorabilia items. Some youth are willing and want to be part of the funeral or celebration of life ceremony.

Death, Religion and Culture 

Different beliefs about death and dying as well as different traditions for funerals and burials are seen across religions and cultures.  The above information is meant to give you general guidance when dealing with a death or loss.  Reaching out to your faith community for support may also be helpful to you and your family.  

For more information on how to talk to children about death and to support children who are grieving, visit

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