Losing your mom as a teenager

Losing a Parent as a Teenager: What to Expect

The death of a parent can have a profound effect on the life of a teenager. A teen’s formative years largely depend on parental guidance and support. When a teenager loses a parent, it may be incredibly hard for them to cope with their grief.

Jump ahead to these sections:
  • What Happens When a Teenager Loses a Parent?
  • How Can Losing a Parent Affect a Teenager?
  • What Can You Say or Do to Help a Teenager Who Lost a Parent?

Teenagers dealing with grief can pose particular challenges. Teens and those trying to help them understand their sorrow may not see eye-to-eye what it means for the teen to have lost a parent. It’s sometimes difficult for adults to counsel adolescents on grief and loss because of the unique challenges facing young people as they’re making their way into adulthood.

If you’re dealing with this particular situation, there are several factors to consider when a teen loses a parent.

What Happens When a Teenager Loses a Parent?

The death of a parent during the teenage years can leave a child feeling unsafe and insecure. These concerns arise when death rocks their family foundation to the core. They may feel a sense of confusion and abandonment and find it difficult to trust those around them.

Knowing how grief affects teens is the first step in addressing the effects of their loss with them. They may experience a myriad of different things, including the following:

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Dramatic behavior changes

There’s a fine line between acting out due to regular adolescent behavioral changes and because a teenager is having difficulty coping with their grief.

Though the way you define dramatic may be different for each teenager, you may recognize when they act out of the ordinary for their demeanor.  

Extraordinary pressure

A teenager may be feeling overwhelmed in dealing with their grief and trying to keep up with school or other obligations. They’ll usually put this added pressure on themselves to avoid dealing with their loss.

Teenagers go above and beyond to avoid dealing with their pain and sorrow through what is known as grief avoidance. They’ll become overly competitive at school or in sports, with their siblings, and even at home with you or a step-parent.

They may feel overwhelmed, which can sometimes manifest in unhealthy ways and may need addressing through family intervention or counseling.


It’s not uncommon for a teenager to withdraw from friends and family as they try to make sense of their grief.

Sometimes teenagers will need to step away from friends and activities to process their parent’s death. 


When a teenager loses a parent, they may undergo bereavement depression that’ll slowly lift in time. Clinical depression is the type of depression that doesn’t ease even with time. 

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Anger is one of the stages of grief that you’ll experience as part of the normal grief process. Some people will never share this emotion following a death, while others will feel angry over their loss.

Allow your teenager to talk about how they’re feeling and why. Seek out counseling to help get this emotion under control when their anger is manifesting in unhealthy ways.


Guilt after loss comes in different forms. Experiencing different types of grief after suffering a significant loss is expected. One common form of guilt during bereavement is known as survivor’s guilt. 

Feeling guilty that your loved one died instead of you is a typical loss reaction in such cases of surviving an auto, or another type of accident, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or surviving a natural disaster.

Teenagers may act out in unusual ways as a result of the grief they are experiencing. As grief manifests and people go through different stages, teenagers may be in a more sensitive spot because of their evolving feelings due to puberty and other hormonal and emotional changes already taking place. 

Here are a few ways that survivor’s guilt can come up:

Death wishes: People sometimes say they wish they were dead, without really meaning it in the literal sense. Having these thoughts is a natural reaction to grief that usually goes away without incident. 

Thinking these thoughts without having a plan of action are just thoughts. Consider online therapy or grief counseling when thoughts are leading to affirmative intentions of following through.

Substance abuse: Some grieving teens will turn to drugs and alcohol to drown out the painful emotions associated with grieving. The pain of losing a parent can be overwhelming for some teens, and they may not know how else to cope with their loss.  

Talk with your teen about the harmful effects of using drugs or alcohol, and how it can negatively impact their health and well-being.

Failing grades or truancy: Grief sometimes makes you feel like nothing else in life matters, including going to school and doing homework assignments. This lack of focus on school is only temporary in most cases, and understandable when a parent has died. 

Talk to your school teachers and administrators and ask for alternative ways to participate in school. Truancy is a serious issue in most school districts that can lead to a criminal or family court’s involvement. 

Promiscuity: Seeking solace in another person’s arms is not uncommon when grief leads to feelings of emptiness inside. These feelings are only temporary at best but can lead to other more significant issues.

Loneliness can sometimes overtake your reasoning. Consider alternate ways of filling this void. One example is to adopt a pet when you’re feeling able to take care of it. A pet provides unconditional love, companionship, and emotional support.

How Can Losing a Parent Affect a Teenager?

The death of a parent will likely stay with a teenager for the rest of their lives. There will be several secondary losses associated with this type of death, primarily if the teenager is in a single-parent household.

Some of those losses are:

  • Their home
  • Major support system
  • Friends 
  • Step-parent and step-siblings 
  • Identity

A teenager might also suffer through significant depression or PTSD as a result of the combination of losing their parent and these secondary losses. 

Secondary losses may also include future losses such as their parent’s support when going to college for the first time, getting married, and having children of their own.

10 needs of a bereaved teenager

Famed psychologist, William Worden, a founding member of the Association of Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), lists ten specific needs of a bereaved teenager in his book Children and Grief, published in 1996:

  1. Adequate information: Give your teenager clear and unambiguous details surrounding the death of their parent and in manageable chunks. Be specific on expectations in the days and weeks following their parent’s death. 
  2. Fears and anxieties addressed: A lack of accurate information over how the parent died or the circumstances will leave the teenager feeling scared and anxious over the manner of death. Give as much information as possible in a way that won’t add to the teenager’s fear of death and dying. 
  3. Reassurance they’re not to blame: Sometimes, when a death happens, as in suicide cases, a teenager may think that the parent’s death was their fault. Reassure them that even though there may have been angry words exchanged, they didn’t cause their parent’s death. In cases of accidents such as an auto accident where the teenager was driving, reassure them that unavoidable accidents can and do happen. 
  4. Careful listening and watching: Be on the lookout for nonverbal cues about how your teen is feeling. If your teenager doesn’t want to open up to you to discuss their grief, consider seeking outside counseling.  
  5. Validation of individual feelings: Encourage your teenager to talk about their feelings openly. Let them know that it’s okay to grieve their loss and to express emotion. 
  6. Help with overwhelming feelings: Ways you can help a teenager manage overwhelming feelings of grief and despair encourage them to release their emotions while carefully monitoring the set rules and boundaries for what is considered acceptable behavior within your home. 
  7. Involvement and inclusion: Involve your teenager in the funeral planning, memorials, and death rituals that follow to gain a sense of closure.
  8. Continued routine activities: Consider keeping routines as close to what they usually are as possible to lend an air of normalcy and stability to your teenager’s life after their parent’s death. 
  9. Modeled grief behaviors: Leading by example also applies to how we grieve. A teenager will learn from your example of what it means to be in grief and mourning.  
  10. Opportunities to remember: Include the teen’s deceased parent in the celebration of life’s special moments so that they can remember them as time goes on. You can say a special prayer, exchange stories, or set a place for them at the table during special occasions and holidays throughout the year.

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What Can You Say or Do to Help a Teenager Who Lost a Parent?

Although you may want to help teenagers cope with their grief, they are usually more comfortable talking with other teenagers who’ve gone through similar experiences. It helps when you connect your teenager with their peers with whom they can share their experiences. Consider seeking out local support groups through schools, churches, or other grief support groups in your area or online.  

Talk to your teen and explain to them that grief is a typical human experience. They will learn to live with it over time, and they’ll eventually start to feel better. Talk to them about the basic concepts of death and what death means to them. Here are some suggested topics and ideas to bring up to your teenager:

Four basic concepts of death

It is worth reminding them of the four concepts of death.

First, that death is irreversible, though it may sound obvious to you. With that in mind, you’ll also want to talk about how all life functions end completely at the time of death. Third, the fact is that everything that is alive eventually dies. Finally, there may be physical or medical reasons why someone dies.

Things you can say to a teenager regarding grief

  • Crying is allowed
  • Absent grief is a thing
  • You’re not alone
  • It’s normal and healthy to show emotion
  • You don’t “get over” grief
  • Don’t numb your pain in unhealthy ways

What Can a Teenager Expect After a Parent Dies

Losing a parent during your teenage years will be a life-altering experience that will forever change you. Everyone will face the death of a loved one sometime during their lives, but losing a parent when you’re still in your teens can be incredibly traumatizing.

You can expect many things to change in your life, but in time, a new normal for you will begin to emerge, and your grief will begin to heal.

If you're looking for more on helping a teen navigate their grief, read our guides on bringing teenager to a funeral and grief counseling for teenagers.


  1. Schonfeld, David M.D., and Marcia Quackenbush, M.S., M.F.T., C.H.E.S. “The Grieving Student: A Teacher's Guide,” Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc, 2010, www.archive.brookespublishing.com/grieving/Schonfeld_understand-death.pdf
  2. Worden, J. W., “Children and grief: When a parent dies,” Guilford Press, 1996. 

My Mom Died - Questions Answered about Grieving for Teens

In our life we may have many friends and family members, but usually only one mom.   To lose your mother at any time is a difficult and sad time.  She has known you all your life and hopefully was the one you turned to in times of need.  A huge gap is created in your life, you miss the physical presence, the chats and smiles.  You miss the talks about your school or working day and the gossip about your friends.  

Here I will try and answer some of the questions you might have and give you some ideas about how you can get through this. 

How should I be feeling?  Is this normal?   

There are lots of different feelings you might be having when your mom has died. You may not be able to stop crying or you may be numb with shock and unable to cry for several weeks. These are both normal reactions.  Don’t try to stop the tears when they are close - they are a good way to get rid of a lot of tension and pent up emotions.

  • You have a physical pain, a need to see her again and often think that you see her in a crowd.
  • You still expect her to walk in the door.
  • You might dream about her. 
  • You might find it difficult to eat, or you might be eating a lot of comfort food. 
  • You might be very angry. 
  • You might want to talk about her all the time, or you might not want to talk. 
  • You will have difficulty concentrating on work. 
  • You might lose confidence and feel anxious. 

These are all normal reactions to this huge loss of your mom.  

Why don't other people seem as upset as me?

You may think that a brother or sister is not as sad as you but we all grieve in different ways.  Some are better at hiding inner turmoil.  Your emotions are on roller coaster rides at this devastating time of your life. Try not to compare how you are feeling with other people.  We are all different. 

Read more about the Emotions of Grief here. 

My mom died – why did it happen? 

Asking “Why her?  Why so young?” is pointless. Life spans vary so much and are not under our control. The years of quality time together are what is important.  Whatever age she was someone will have lost their parent at a younger age. There are no reasons for how long all of us live. That is why it is important for us to make the most of every day of our lives.  

The slings and arrows of life's misfortunes affect us all at some time in our lives.  These traumas ultimately make us stronger and able to cope better in life.

I don’t know what to do?  How am I going to get through this?   

  • Getting through each day at a time is the best method. 
  • Try not to spend too much time alone in your room.
  • Get involved in funeral arrangements.  You will be pleased that you made an effort to read a poem or sing your mom's favourite song, or say something about your mom in the service.
  • Yes it is painful, but it is for the rest of the family as well.  They also need support.
  • Talk about your mom to the family.  Talk about holidays you had.   Reminisce, laugh and cry together.
  • Keep up with all your friends and tell them how you feel.  They will want to support you. 
  • Don’t be afraid of having a good time again.  Your mother would have wanted that. 
  • Go back to your sport or hobbies as soon as possible and get your life into routine with work or college.
  • If you cry in front of friends or family - so what?  They will understand and boys cry too.
  • Be supportive of your family.  Remember they are all sad too.
  • A good idea is to have your favourite photo of your mom by your bedside and tell her you miss her.  Talk to her -  it won’t bring her back but it is a comfort to you.
  • Some find comfort in writing down how they feel in a letter to their mom or in diary form.
  • Write a poem or a song or paint a picture of how you feel.  Dance or sing or play some music.  This page explains how these things can help. 
  • Make a scrapbook of your mom as a treasured keepsake.  

Will things ever get easier? 

Eventually coping without your mom gets easier.  You will always miss her.  You wish she was still with you but because of all her love you deserve to do well for yourself and especially for her.

Don’t feel that you have to think about her and your grief every minute of the day.  You are allowed to laugh and enjoy things.  You can’t be sad all the time, and your mom wouldn’t have wanted that. 

Don’t worry about what other people think, they don’t know how you feel inside.

What if you argued with your mom?  Or you said something you regret?

Try not to feel guilty.  Everyone argues with their family members from time to time.  Your mom knew that you loved her, and even if the relationship was not the best it could be, she was still your mom and you will still feel sad.  The important thing to remember is that IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.  These things happen and there is no reason and no-one is to blame.  

You might be angry that you have lost the chance to put things right or tell her things you wanted to say.  A good way to do that, is to write her a letter, or write it down in your journal.  Talk it over with a best friend or family member. 

You will never forget or replace your mother but you get on with your life for her sake, remembering all the advice she gave you and all the love and happy memories.  You are sad because you loved her and that is precious.

Walking along the pathways of grief is always painful.  It is often full of happy memories which you cannot face thinking about at first.  But you will get to a stage where you can look back with pleasure at the good times you shared with your mom.  You are not alone.  You are walking along these paths with your family too. You will cope because of the strength your mother gave you. 

RElated Pages: 

Books on Grief for Teenagers

Coping with Grief in Your Teens

Losing Your Mother

Teen Grief Forum

  1. Grief and Sympathy Home
  2. Coping With Grief for Teenagers
  3. My Mom Died

For USA Residents: 

Please help our colleagues at Yeshiva University, USA by joining in their research study:


#33769566. 1  IRB Approved at the Study Level. 21 July 2022

We are seeking individuals who are caregiving for someone with a life-limiting illness and those who have experienced a significant loss to participate in a research study through Yeshiva University. The purpose of the study is to develop a questionnaire to identify those who may be in need of caregiver or grief support in order to ultimately improve family-centered care in hospitals and clinics.

For caregivers and bereaved individuals who would like to contribute to our understanding of caregiving and bereavement, this is a way to make a difference.

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Where to get help: 

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Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

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Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

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Memorial Jewelry to Honour a Loved One

Check out our lovely range of memorial jewelry for any lost loved one.  Pendants, necklaces, rings or bracelets, we have them all in all kinds of styles.  Choose for yourself or buy as a sympathy gift.  

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Grief and Sympathy

How the death of parents in childhood affects relationships in adulthood. Study

The death of loved ones is always a shock, no matter how old it may be. And if a child is faced with death, this can affect him not only here and now, but also on his relationships in adulthood. How exactly - in the journal Psychology Today, psychiatrist Grant Brenner told.

There really isn't much research on how the death of a loved one affects adulthood. Some of them argue that women who have experienced such trauma are less likely to get married. Other researchers, on the contrary, come to the conclusion that they get married earlier. There are many questions, as you can imagine. For example, is it true that people who lost one of their parents in childhood fail to build long-term relationships or have a higher divorce rate? Does it matter how a parent died? How much more complicated is it if it was a suicide?

To try to answer these questions, Danish scientists studied databases of the local population. And then they conducted a statistical analysis to find patterns between the early death of parents and relationships in adulthood. Scientists took data from 1,525,173 people for the period from 1970 to 1995: their gender, age and marital status were compared with the causes of death of their parents and the duration of the relationship.

It turned out that 4.5% of people experienced the death of their parents in childhood, most of the death of their father. Approximately half of the respondents lost their parents in adolescence, the rest even earlier.

Of the 1.5 million people who participated in the study, 20,000 men and women who experienced the death of a parent were in some kind of relationship. Relationships with such people last an average of four years. While those with both parents alive have six years. Especially often, children of suicides start romances, but they do not last very long. By the way, women are 9% more likely to build long-term relationships. But at the same time, men break off relationships and break up in 13% of cases, and women - only in 9%.

It is also interesting that scientists have not found a difference between whose loss is more difficult for a child: mother or father. Perhaps these are all gender stereotypes and there really shouldn't be any difference. Although recent studies have noted the importance of the father in adolescence, because men after the death of a wife / mother can better support the whole family.

In general, the consequences of the early death of parents were not so strong, given the scale of childhood trauma. Yes, people who experienced the death of one of their parents in childhood are more likely to face psychological problems. Nevertheless, they may well build relationships, but due to emotional instability, they often lack a secure attachment to a partner.

Next, the scientists plan to investigate the quality of relationships, the degree and style of attachment, and how people from different families and different cultures generally deal with such grief. The scientists hope the results can help get help to those who need it most.

Not only can one not hide a disease from a child, but in principle one must talk to him about death before he encounters it in life. How to do it right so as not to frighten, - said psychologist Irina Belyaeva.

Translation: Yulia Zabelina

The death of parents is traumatic at any age


Man among men Know thyself

I was orphaned at 52. Despite my adult age and professional experience, the death of my father turned my life upside down. They say it's like losing a part of yourself. But I had the feeling that the anchor of my self-identity had been cut off.

Shock, numbness, denial, anger, sadness and despair are the range of emotions that people experience when they lose a loved one. These feelings do not leave us for many more months. For many, they appear without a certain sequence, losing their sharpness over time. But my personal fog did not dissipate for more than half a year.

The process of mourning takes time, and people around us sometimes show impatience - they want us to get better as soon as possible. But someone continues to acutely experience these feelings for many years after the loss. This ongoing mourning can have cognitive, social, cultural, and spiritual implications.

Grief, Addiction and Mental Disorder

Research shows that the loss of a parent can increase the risk of long-term emotional and mental problems such as depression, anxiety and drug addiction.

This is especially true when a person does not receive full support during the period of bereavement and does not find full-fledged adoptive parents if relatives died too early. The death of a father or mother in childhood significantly increases the chances of developing mental health problems. Approximately one in 20 children under the age of 15 is affected by the loss of one or both parents.

Sons who have lost their fathers experience the loss more difficult than daughters, and women have a harder time reconciling with the death of their mothers

Another decisive factor in the occurrence of such consequences is the degree of closeness of the child with the deceased parent and the scale of the impact of the tragic event on his entire future life. And this does not mean at all that people are easier to experience the loss of someone with whom they were less close. I can say with confidence that in this case, the experience of loss can be even deeper.

The long-term consequences of the loss of a parent have been studied repeatedly. It turned out that this affects both mental and physical health, with the latter more often manifested in men. In addition, sons who have lost their fathers are more difficult to experience the loss than daughters, and women have a harder time reconciling with the death of their mothers.

It's time to seek help

Research on bereavement theory has helped to understand how to help people traumatized by the death of their parents. It is very important to focus on a person's personal resources and his ability to self-heal. It is important that significant relatives and family members provide him with comprehensive assistance. In the event that a person is experiencing complicated grief that continues long after the death of a loved one, additional measures and mental health screening may be needed.

Each of us copes with the loss of loved ones in our own way and at our own pace, and it can be very difficult to recognize at what stage sadness turns into a chronic complex disorder. This prolonged form of pathological grief is usually accompanied by prolonged painful experiences, and it seems that a person is not able to accept the loss and move on even months and years after the death of a loved one.

The Path of Rehabilitation

The stages of recovery after the death of a parent include an important stage when we allow ourselves to experience the pain of loss. This helps us gradually begin to realize what happened and move forward. As we heal, we regain the ability to enjoy our relationships with others. But if we continue to obsess and overreact to any reminders of the past, professional help is needed.

Communication with a specialist supports and helps to talk openly about sadness, frustration or anger, learns to cope with these feelings and simply allow them to manifest. Family counseling may also be helpful in this situation.

It becomes easier for us to live and let go of grief if we do not hide feelings, thoughts and memories

The death of one of the parents can bring back old pain and resentment and have a significant impact on family system processes. A family therapist helps to separate old and new conflicts, shows constructive ways to eliminate them and improve relationships.

Learn more