Grief comes in many shapes and sizes – but we all experience it throughout our lives. Change, bullying, anxiety, abuse of any kind, loss and trauma can all have their associated grief.

Grief can lead young people to:

  • a loss of self-confidence (I must be a bad person for this to happen to me);
  • feelings of isolation (no one will want to know me now);
  • a loss of trust (no one can help me);
  • feelings of anger (I don’t deserve this);
  • lack of sleep (my mind goes over and over it); and
  • risk-taking behaviour (what’s the point?)

Young people can also experience grief through their perceived inability to support a grieving friend. Here are some tips that can help them in this situation:

  • Keep in touch – with your grieving friend and with a trusted adult you can talk to for your own support;
  • Listen, rather than offering ‘advice’;
  • Remember our response to grief is a personal one, so try to stay open to how your friend is responding;
  • Be alert to any behaviour that worries you and tell an adult you trust if you have concerns; and
  • Ensure you have people to talk to, keep healthy and take care of yourself too.

It is also important to look after yourself:

  • Think about activities you enjoy and places you like to go to and make time for them;
  • Whenever you have a negative thought, catch it and change it to a positive one. Ask for help to do this the first few times until it becomes a habit;
  • Find a balance for yourself to know how much you can ‘give’ to your friend. This helps you establish boundaries for yourself and is about being honest with your grieving friend; and
  • Build your own support network –friends, family/whānau and other adults.

More information about supporting a friend, a child or a young person going through tough times can be found at

Aileen Davidson is Skylight’s National Coordinator for Professional Development and the Travellers Programme. Skylight is based in Wellington, New Zealand, but works throughout the country with individuals, community groups, organisations and schools, including their Travellers programme, a resilience building programme for young people.