fbpx Skip to main content

Program Information

Coping with Loss: What Grieving Teens Can Do to Find Purpose After a Loss

March 15th, 2024
Looking down a desolate highway at sunset

The loss of a loved one or a family relation is one of the most difficult experiences we will have in our lives. It can feel like a rollercoaster, complete with ups and downs as we process what has happened. The pain can be sharp and acute or dull and unending. Whether we were close to the person or not, we all process our grief differently. Even if we don’t want to be emotional, it’s impossible to avoid.  

There’s a quote from Billy Graham that says, “No matter how prepared you think you are for the death of a loved one, it still comes as a shock, and it still hurts very deeply.” There have been times in my own life when I knew a loved one was going to pass. Over months, there was no denying how their condition was becoming worse and worse. Although I was mentally prepared for it, the eventual loss of this person was devastating. There was a heaviness that I felt for the loss of memories and my dreams of the future that were now gone. I cannot explain the deep sense of loss that I felt during that period, but eventually, I learned to accept the situation, look forward, and create meaning through the short life that was lost.

Woman looking out over an empty shote

At Grad Solutions, we have seen many students experience profound losses. Whether it was the loss of a parent, sibling, cousin, or other relative, loss can disrupt life and create “symptoms” that impact them physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. While there’s no single path to process a loss, it can be helpful to recognize some of the typical stages of grief you may experience. We share those stages and how you can purpose despite your loss.

The Five Stages of Grief

When dealing with a loss, we go through a variety of different emotions and thoughts. Here are some of the symptoms and feelings we may experience while dealing with a loss: 

  • Crying
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Questioning the purpose of life
  • Questioning spiritual beliefs
  • Frustration
  • DetachmentIsolation from friends and family
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains
  • Stress

These are all expected parts of the grief process and are normal. Many different behaviors and feelings are expected in each stage of the grieving process, but they can hit us unexpectedly.

Elizabeth KüblerRoss was a Swiss psychiatrist whose work helped patients deal with their own looming deaths. Through her work, she learned how to help people grieve and developed a model called “The Five Stages of Grief.” Over the years, this model has been adopted to help people cope with their grief. In this article, we’ll share some things that may help you at each stage of the healing process.

Stage 1 – Denial

Remember the Lost

If it makes sense, taking steps to honor the memory of the deceased could be one of the first things you do to help you release. The number one thing you can do when trying to accept a loss is to attend the funeral and/or wake. Seeing the deceased in their final state of rest can help to make their departure more real. Other ways to honor their memory could include collecting photos, sharing stories, or establishing a memorial.

Truthfully, we don’t always feel like honoring those who pass. There are times when a person’s death may only stir up negative memories. We may feel confusion, anger, or pain instead. Even if this is the case, finding a meaningful way to remember the deceased can help you start to find closure amid the pain.

Stage 2 – Anger

Open up to your Support Network

Staying in touch with your social connections can be a crucial aspect of coping with grief. Schools can also provide a community where students interact with friends and teachers regularly. Classmates, teachers, and counselors can offer emotional support and understanding, creating a network that helps the grieving teen feel less isolated.

Student sitting down with an advisor, receiving guidance

At Grad Solutions, our Mentors are here to encourage students and help them get through difficult times, like when they have experienced the death of a loved one. Whatever the student is feeling, we are there for them and will provide as much support as possible. 

Stage 3 – Bargaining

Find Distraction and Focus

At this stage, one might look for something to distract or consume one’s attention. This can be something healthy or potentially harmful. One healthy area to focus on could be academic pursuits to distract from the pain of loss.

At Grad Solutions, we’ve seen firsthand how this can allow teens to channel their energy into productive activities, preventing excessive dwelling on negative emotions. Engaging in a hobby or developing a skill can provide a sense of purpose and achievement.

Maintain Structure and Routine

It’s worth considering that when grieving, having a predictable schedule can offer a sense of stability during a tumultuous time. Regular school attendance and engagement in coursework help establish a routine that can be comforting and grounding. Continuing to attend school or work can provide a structured environment that can give you a sense of normalcy.

Stage 4 – Depression

Find Counseling and Support

Receiving counseling services and support can be crucial at this stage. Consider what resources are available to help you process at this time. For students, many high schools have counseling services available to support students dealing with grief. These professionals can provide a safe space for teens to express their emotions, offer guidance on coping strategies, and assist in managing the challenges that may arise in the academic setting.

Counselor sitting on a couch having a conversation with a client

The Grad Solutions program provides students with counseling services as needed. We want to ensure that students who are struggling with grief, depression, or other issues feel supported and know they are not alone. If this is you, we want you to get the support you need.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Set Goals and Achieve Them

A loved one’s death may change what our future looks like, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a dream. Before your loved one passed, you may have had dreams about your education, career, or future family. You can still have goals, and it is possible to achieve your vision for the future.

Eventually, life will start to feel “normal” again. This is a time for resetting and working toward your personal goals. Pursuing a pursuit like completing high school or going after a new job can instill a sense of accomplishment and give you the “win” you need.

Looking Ahead

Pursuing a life goal like finishing high school can be crucial and empowering for anyone, especially teens who must take the next step as they prepare for adulthood. Finishing high school can help you get to where you need to be while providing a positive outlet. Ultimately, achieving a goal can contribute to a healthier emotional state.

Woman looking retrospectively at the ground

As you look forward to the future, you can turn your pain into purpose. You can use what you have experienced as a motivator for doing good things and honoring those who have passed (or maybe despite those who have passed). Through acts of kindness, charitable endeavors, or community service, you can create a lasting legacy that transcends the pain you feel. By embracing the opportunity to live fully, enjoying our life, and positively impacting others, it is possible to find healing.

If you would like to learn about different ways to process grief, books such as On Death and Dying, On Grief & Grieving, or I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye can help.


5 Stages of Grief: Coping with the loss of a loved one 

The Five Stages of Grief 

The Process of Coping with Grief and Loss 

Read more about .

Change your life's direction. Your Diploma is Waiting.

Get Started
Your choice regarding cookies on this site

We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website.  LEARN MORE

I Do Not Accept Accept