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Teens and Grief

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the decision-making part of the brain, and in teens, the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, the amygdala in the teen brain is used to make decisions and solve problems. The amygdala is controls emotions, impulses, aggression and instincts.


Grieving for a teen can be a whirlwind of emotions. While grief is normal and can be processed in a healthy way, teens may not want to experience the whirlwind. Like adults, teens grieve in different ways -- one teen may want total isolation for a while; another may stuff the feelings and become the family comedian. Keep an eye out for warning signs of alcohol or drug use, rage, antisocial behaviors, changes in sleep patterns and suicide risk.


For teens, relationships with friends become as valuable as relationships with family, and unique in that teens establish their own identities based upon their relationships with friends. The death or loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend may have a stronger impact on them than a grandparent.Like adults, teens may experience complicated grief. For example, the loss of an addicted or abusive parent.



​“My daughter, a planner and an “A” student, broke up with her long-term boyfriend.

Within a month, she had plans to move to Germany…

...With a guy she didn’t

really even know.”

Next: Helping Teens with Death and Grieving: What Teens Want Adults to Know

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