Sometimes, teens who are grieving actually encounter something uglier than abandonment: flippancy. Imagine dealing with a difficulty on par with the loss of a spouse or child or bff and having members of your support system say trite things like, “Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. You’ll get over it.” You would be crushed, wouldn’t you? Yet we often fail to follow the biblical mandate of Romans 12:15 when it comes to our teenagers: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Considering the Source
Weeping with those who weep does not require us to understand. Sympathy, by definition, does not require you to feel the same way about the loss or the gravity of a situation; it merely requires “impulses of compassion.” This can be difficult when teens seem to overreact to a romantic rejection, a lost championship game, or even a classroom faux pas.
I was once watching a sitcom about middle school kids where one young girl was absolutely sobbing over the unrequited love of her collegiate student teacher. After she described how her whole world seemed to be crumbling, his response was both insightful and compassionate. “Everything seems big when you’re in high school. The big game seems like the most important thing ever. The highs are incredible, and the lows are terrible.”
Adolescence is like that. Regardless of how insignificant you know your son or daughter’s hardship will be in the scheme of life, their current sorrow begs for your compassion.
Feeling Supported and Understood
Part of what you can offer goes beyond biting your lip against trite or denigrating comments. Letting your teen know you’re there and showing your concern can be helpful, and letting them know if you went through something similar can go even further.
Even better, though, is to point them to God’s Word. David displays raw emotion throughout the Psalms, and even our Lord wished to avoid human pain (Matt. 26:39).
In the context of a biblical view of suffering, you can guide your teen in using times of emotional turmoil as a vehicle to bring about spiritual growth. Examining the lives of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 or contrasting Job’s wife’s response with his own (Job 2:9-10) can be helpful to that end.
Taking Steps Toward Moving On
I wish I knew whom to credit with this statement, but it’s not original with me: “It’s okay, as Christians, to visit the house of depression and grief, but not to live there.” At some point, your teen will need guidance in leaving his hurts at the feet of Jesus, refusing to let them color his future. You’ll win the opportunity to walk this path with him if you’ve already demonstrated compassionate support during the intensity of his fresh grief.