grief counseling for teens


Perhaps the most devastating process that can happen in the life of a teen is the death of a loved one. Whether it is a parent, sibling, close friend, or an extended family member to whom the teen was particularly close, teens usually have a far more difficult time grappling with death than do adults. When they care for a person who died, it can be extremely challenging to understand these powerful emotions. Even the loss of a beloved pet may cause extreme teen grief.

In some cases, a teen’s reaction to death may be so profound that he or she begins to act out or resort to substance abuse to cope with the tragedy. In teens who are already exhibiting signs of behavioral problems, such as teenage eating disorders or mental health issues, the problems could worsen.

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Grief is much more than feeling sad. Grief is the natural reaction to loss, and for many teens, this emotion can be overwhelming. Grief affects everyone differently, and commonly evokes feelings of confusion, guilt, doubt, anger, and a loss of interest in friends, family, school, and other activities. Grief is not a mental illness. Grief is a natural emotion we all experience at some point in our lives. However, teens may have a much more difficult time overcoming this powerful emotion.


Many different types of loss can lead to teen grief. The death of a parent, relative, caregiver, friend, or even a close family pet can cause grief that a teen is unable to cope with in a healthy way. Left unresolved, teen grief can develop into depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other problematic behaviors. It’s important to also note that death is not the only cause of teen grief. Any form of loss, whether caused by a move, a failed relationship, or a major life change, can cause grief in teens.


While each teen experiences grief in a unique way, there are many common symptoms that can help you identify teen grief.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of teen grief:


  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Anger and irritability.
  • Shame.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Apathy.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Poor academic performance.
  • Changes to sleep patterns.
  • Lack of interest in friends and activities.
  • Struggling with daily tasks.
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While sharing some similar symptoms, teen grief and depression are distinct experiences. Grief is a natural process that we all experience at some point in our lives. Depression, on the other hand, is a medical illness that should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor or mental health professional.

From the outside looking in, depression and teen grief can appear very similar. Both conditions can be expressed through symptoms of sadness, trouble sleeping, withdrawal, lack of interest in friends and activities, or a poor appetite. In serious cases, those suffering from depression or grief may turn to substance abuse or have thoughts of self-harm. However, there are still key differences between these two conditions.

One of the primary differences between grief and depression is time. Grief occurs in response to a loss. Over time, grief tends to decrease as time allows your teen to heal. However, grief may reappear over time if triggered by a picture or memory of the person who was lost. Depression, on the other hand, tends to be far more persistent. If left untreated, depression can worsen and lead to serious complications.

Without extensive experience in the mental health field, grief and depression can look almost indistinguishable. This is why working with a residential teen treatment center can prove extremely beneficial in helping your teen manage their grief and heal.


There is no one way to treat teen grief. Unlike other mental health issues, grief is a natural process that takes time and patience. Polaris Teen Center provides a safe space for your teen to address their feelings of grief and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Incorporating various evidence based treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, journaling, and group therapy, among others, your teen will be given the time, space, and resources to understand their emotions and heal from the trauma.


Grief counseling, as a part of our teen treatment programs, can help your teen express their emotions, address these feelings, and develop healthy habits and strategies to overcome their grief. Our residential treatment facility employs mental health experts and grief counselors to help your teen understand, accept, and then work through their grief. Grief counseling creates this pivotal space for your teen to heal and grow.

In grief counseling, your teen will work closely with a team of trauma informed grief counselors. The core of grief counseling involves two main steps. The first is to develop a relationship of trust and respect between your teen and the grief counselor. Once this is established, they can work to heal. The grief counselor will actively listen as your teen shares their thoughts and feelings. Then they will ask specific questions designed to better understand the relationship between your teen and who they lost. By better understanding the unique nature of this relationship, this form of individual therapy can address methods for coping and healing.

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At Polaris Teen Center, an adolescent residential mental health facility in Los Angeles, we understand the special needs of the grieving teen. Here, our team of behavioral health experts can help parents navigate the teen’s feelings and create a space in which your teen is allowed to freely and honestly express their feelings.

Often, this time of grief and the expert counseling provided by a staff found at our teen mental health center, can be an impetus for the teen to make a course correction in life or to channel their feelings into a worthwhile cause or project. For some teens, this may mean volunteering time at an appropriate non-profit organization. For others, it may mean keeping a journal or becoming more aware of their emotions.


There is no one-size-fits-all method for counseling a teen through a period of grief. Each teen is different and each death or loss is different. The experience of grief is affected by the specific type of loss. Our expert grief counselors know how to identify the type of loss and then design their treatment in response.

For example, in a sudden death due to an accident or health problem, such as a heart attack, teens are left with a personal void that can never be filled. Essentially, they are forever unable to create closure with the deceased. This element of grief requires deft handling of the emotions the teen is facing.

When the death occurs after a lengthy, lingering illness, teens may start to wonder why the loved one was put through the agony of the illness in the first place. When the loved one resides in the same home as the teen, the teen may have a front row seat to an event that will live with them long after the loss.

On occasion, teens may face multiple deaths in the family or among their other life contacts. When this happens, there is an increased chance that the teen will feel isolated. Working through these feelings to help the teen move on is part of our process at Polaris adolescent treatment center.

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The death of a loved one is often accompanied by guilt, which is amplified for many teens. Teens may cling to the mistaken belief that they either caused the death or did not do enough to prevent it. As a result, the feelings of grief can become almost unbearable.

Regardless of the circumstances of your teen’s grief, the trained counselors at Polaris Teen Center, an adolescent mental health facility, have the knowledge to guide them through this difficult period. Our mental health experts can help your teen cope and understand that their feelings of loss are justified. Our teen treatment center provides personalized treatment plans and an environment that supports healing within the whole family by involving parents and loved ones in the grief treatment process.


Grief counseling is an important part of our residential program as it can help teens who have experienced trauma understand their feelings and work through their grief. Compared to other forms of treatment, there are many benefits to residential treatment centers.

Here are some of the reasons why many families choose residential teen treatment centers:

Comprehensive care: with 24-hour care and a full staff of experienced doctors, therapists, and mental health professionals at our treatment facilities, your teen will receive the most comprehensive care to assist them as they recover.

Support for families: we understand the importance of the family when it comes to achieving long-term health and wellness. This is why we also provide support for all the family members, helping you to develop skills and strategies for your teen’s recovery.

Remove stressors: when your teen stays at a residential treatment center, they’ll have a safe distance from any stressors or triggers that may make their grief worse.

Individualized treatment: every path toward healing is unique, which is why we create individualized treatment plans for each of our patients. These plans are informed by your teen’s unique needs to ensure they receive the most effective treatment.

Learn from peers: at a residential teen treatment center, your teen will have the chance to forge new connections with peers who are experiencing similar challenges. Not only can these relationships turn into powerful friendships, but they can also help teens developing coping strategies by learning from one another.


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At Polaris Teen Center, we offer a range of mental health services and a safe space for teens to grow and heal. Our evidence-based treatment programs help teens through many different mental health disorders and behavioral issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma, and more. At a teen specific residential treatment center, your teen will have the space, resources, and professional assistance to help them understand and address their emotions and develop healthy habits for a happy and productive life.

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learn more about our individualized treatment programs and residential teen treatment center. We’re open 24/7 and we’re here to help. Call or COntact us today: