For a teen, grief is an exceptionally powerful and all-consuming emotion. If you’re the parent of a tween or teenage girl, you probably already know this, at least to some degree.
Research shows that the loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences for teenagers. Dealing with the death of a pet is difficult for anyone, but if your child grew up with the pet, the loss can be particularly deep and painful.
Grief is a process, and it will take time for your child to adjust to a pet’s passing. Here’s how you can help your teen cope with her feelings and come to terms with the loss.
Give Your Teen an Opportunity to Mourn
Every teen will mourn in her own way, and it is important to provide time for her to deal with her emotions. Many teens respond to the loss of a pet much like an adult would, masking their feelings and staying busy to avoid dealing with them. Other teens may cry a lot or seem withdrawn and quiet.
Grief can be expressed in many different ways, and it’s important for teens to know that their feelings and responses are normal. It can also be helpful to validate their emotions by being honest about your own sorrow, and sharing how much you miss the pet.
Regardless of how your teen mourns, she needs plenty of time before getting a new pet. Rushing to find another animal will not erase the pain of the loss.
Find Ways to Remember the Pet
Many teens find it comforting to think of happy times with their beloved pet. Beyond talking about the pet, your child may find it helpful to create a physical memory of her pet. Writing in a journal or making a scrapbook or shadow box can be a good way to keep memories close at hand.
Some teens like the idea of remembering their pet by planting a special tree or making a donation to an animal shelter in the pet’s name. A funeral or memorial service can also help teens find closure after their pet’s passing.
Seek Outside Help for Excessive Teen Grief
If your child experiences prolonged or excessive difficulty coping with the loss of her pet, she may need the help of a therapist or professional counselor. A short time of gloominess is to be expected, and maybe even a little drama. However, if you notice that your teen has been mourning for an unusually long time or that she is preoccupied with thoughts of death, don’t delay seeking outside help.
Therapy may also be needed if your teen withdraws from family and friends, is afraid to be alone or becomes disinterested in her usual activities, as these can be signs of severe teen grief or even depression.
Everyone mourns loss differently, but some teens may need help to work through their grief. At Havenwood Academy, we specialize in providing residential treatment for girls and young women. If you are concerned about your daughter, contact us today to discuss the situation. Our experienced treatment professionals understand the challenges that young women can face with depression, anxiety and mental illness. Call us for more information about teen grief and healing.