How To Cope With The Death Of A Friend Or Loved One As A Teenager

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated April 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Losing someone you love can be one of life's most challenging experiences. There's no single right way to cope with grief when a friend dies; everyone experiences the grieving process in their own manner and on their own timeline. Loss from a teenager's perspective in particular is unique because it’s an often life-changing event during a period of life that may already feel turbulent. This guide explores different ways to cope with the death of a friend or loved one as a teenager.

Losing someone close to you can be upsetting

Healthy ways to cope with loss

First, it’s important to note that grief—and the emotions that may come along with it—is a normal part of the healing process following the loss of a loved one. It can be hard to accept loss or death as a teen, especially if the death marks the end of a friendship or close relationship with a friend or family member. After experiencing a loss, you might be deeply affected and feel shock, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or other complex and even contradictory emotions. While letting yourself feel the emotions associated with grief is usually important even if you weren’t best friends when your friend died, it’s typically also a good idea to find ways to take good care of yourself and your mental health in the process. 

Some people worry that they may forget their friends if they take steps to take care of their mental health or to feel better. Doing things to help yourself feel better doesn’t mean you’re forgetting or disrespecting the person you lost, even if they were your best friend; instead, it’s a natural and healthy way to cope with the grief you’re feeling. Here are a few strategies you can try if you find yourself in this challenging situation following the death of a loved one. Keep in mind that every person is different, so what may work for one may not work for another and grief goes beyond the tears at memorial service. For most people, experimenting with how different tactics make you feel can be a good way to deal with grief.

Find a healthy outlet

​​The sudden intensity of emotions during bereavement can be difficult to navigate and it may feel like your world has been turned upside down. In a situation like this, the mechanisms you choose to cope with your feelings can make a big difference in how the grieving process goes for you. Talking with a trusted support person such as a parent, teacher, family, or other friends or loved ones can help the healing begin. Unhealthy choices like turning to substance use or denying or suppressing your emotions can feel helpful at the moment but are usually not constructive ways to work through your grief.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Instead, you might try letting out the feelings you’re experiencing. Friends and family members are often willing to provide a safe space to do this. However, some people prefer seclusion when they let their emotions out by crying, journaling, or expressing how they feel. 

Allowing yourself to cry is often beneficial, as research has found that it can be an effective self-soothing behavior that releases the positive brain chemicals of endorphins and oxytocin.

Journaling at night before you go to bed, or during the day as feelings arise may also help you express any emotions that have built up about the situation. Remember that it’s okay to be sad and okay to express that sadness, or whatever other form your feelings may take during this time—and in fact, doing so may help you move forward.


Take care of your physical health

While the pain of losing a loved one is usually primarily emotional, taking care of your physical body as well may help you move through the grieving process. For instance, one study found that physical activity “may provide benefit for the physical health and psychological wellbeing of those who have been bereaved, including when the loss has happened at a young age”. An article from Harvard Health Publishing also tells that eating a balanced diet can help fortify the body through the experience of the stress of grief—adding that aiming to consume small portions more frequently can help if eating is difficult because of your emotional state. While taking care of your own physical needs can feel low on the priority list in the wake of a loss, it can help you better manage the grieving process.

Cherish and preserve memories

At first, being reminded of your loved one during day-to-day activities can be too painful. Over time, however, the pain may dull and you can focus on fond memories of the good times with this person. You might try honoring the loved one you’ve lost in a way that fits who they were or what your relationship with them was like. You might gather photos and create a photo collage of your favorite times together, which can bring more smiles, or write a letter to them or a poem about them to honor their memory. Or, if you had a complicated or unhealthy relationship with this person, it’s okay to not want to reminisce about them. Remember, grieving is an individual process that should be unique to you.

Speak with someone you trust

You might feel alone when you experience loss at a young age. You may not have other peers who have experienced the death of a loved one, which can be frustrating and isolating. Sometimes, leaning on friendships or expressing your feelings with someone who has experienced loss before or who is grieving the same loss can be helpful. Or a close friend who hasn’t may also be a source of comfort and extra support. Even if they can’t fully understand what you’re going through and just listen, they may be able to provide a kind word or a hug, make you laugh, or simply sit with you so that you're not alone. If there’s a teacher or counselor you trust and feel comfortable around, they may also be able to provide support and reinforce that your feelings matter. You may also want to seek help from a therapist; more on this below.

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Losing someone close to you can be upsetting

How therapy can help with the grieving process

Those who are experiencing a loss at any age may benefit from speaking with a trained counselor or therapist. Attending support groups is another option for those who want to connect with a mental health professional as they mourn a loved one’s passing. These professionals can help you set your own pace for the grieving process, offer you a safe space in which to process your emotions, and help you identify healthy coping mechanisms. Some therapists may also choose to use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) so that you can learn to recognize and shift unhelpful thought patterns that may be causing you additional distress during this time.

Your parents or school counselor may be able to help you connect with a therapist in your area who you can meet with in person. Or, if you prefer to seek this kind of support from the comfort of your home, you can consider virtual therapy. Research suggests that online therapy offers similar benefits to in-person sessions, so it’s a viable option for those who find it more comfortable, convenient, available, or affordable. With an online therapy service like TeenCounseling, for instance, you can get matched with a licensed therapist with your parent’s consent, and you can meet with them via phone, video call, and/or online chat to address your concerns. 


Experiencing a loss is always difficult, especially during your teenage years. The strategies outlined here can help you work through your grief in a healthy way. You may also consider meeting with a therapist for support in the process. 

Learn to cope with the challenges of adolescence
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