Teenagers often earn a reputation for drama and moodiness. Sometimes adults ignore or discount genuine pain youth experience, considering it to be just another adolescent attitude. We know, however, that middle and high school students experience a wide range of emotions, and that those feelings must be validated and addressed. When young people are grieving, it is essential that they know a reliable support system exists to comfort and encourage them.
When a group of teenagers experiences the same event or similar events, they can often help one another cope as they empathize and mourn together. It is important to gently guide them through this grieving process and to offer consolation, hope, and appropriate Scripture.
Grief is an expected result of tragedy like death or sudden illness. However, there are other events that might not seem as significant, but can still cause a sense of mourning. Loss is not always connected to tangible things. Sometimes it encompasses the disappointment of missing out on a long-awaited event or opportunity.
This study will focus on helping youth who might be grieving ambiguous loss. This might include missing out on performances, sporting events, graduation ceremonies, concerts, birthday parties, weddings, or vacations. Such opportunities might be lost due to illness, accident, weather, or crisis. Everyone encounters such things in life, but it can be especially challenging for teens to understand and grow from such events, when crushing disappointment weighs heavily and the future is tough to view optimistically.
There are a few critical things to keep in mind when dealing with youth who are grieving:
- Acknowledge that grief is normal and acceptable, and experiencing a range of emotions is healthy and appropriate.
- Understand that expressing grief is as unique as we are. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve.
- Check in regularly on teens, and demonstrate genuine care.
- Avoid providing trite answers like “just look at the positive,” or “you’ll be fine; you can get through it.” Teens need space to experience emotions. They might be open to public prayer or Bible verse suggestions, but do not merely toss those things out casually as a quick fix. Let them know you are experiencing true feelings with
- Be present and ready to listen. You don’t have to “fix” anything. Just be willing to be there for students.
The recommended format for a Bible Study on grief is somewhat different than a typical youth group meeting. While laughter can be a helpful distraction, students in mourning might not benefit from a round of sock fighting or a shaving cream battle. It’s important to allow space for teens to share and participate as much or as little as they prefer. Give them time to talk through feelings and to explore the comfort of God’s word, but don’t force them to do more than they might want to.
*Remote Note: If possible, it is helpful to meet grieving teens in person. However, there are times that require meeting from a distance. This study includes suggestions to adapt activities for such conditions.
For the complete Bible study, download the PDF of Grieving Ambiguous Loss.