Navigating School After Grief and Loss: Tips for Teens

Coping with the loss of a friend or family member can be debilitating on its own.
a woman holding her hands together

Coping with the loss of a friend or family member can be debilitating on its own. However, when you think about returning to life as you knew it, it can be overwhelming. Taking on the responsibilities of your schoolwork as you navigate these new emotions can be difficult for teens who have experienced a major loss. If you’ve lost someone recently, here are some tips for navigating school after grief and loss.

Reach out for support so that you don’t have to deal with this alone.


Young adults coping with loss can be at risk of developing mental illness, engaging in self-harm, or even turning to drug use as a means to escape these feelings. Those who are high-achieving students may even feel greater pressure to return to normal and maintain their performance after a loss. To better deal with your emotions while also dealing with the rigorous expectations of academic excellence, reach out to a place like residential treatment centers for teens. Residential treatment centers will provide you with the intensive inpatient care you need to improve your mental health and receive the resources required to navigate life more successfully once you go back out into the world. The right counselors and treatment plan can make a world of difference in how you feel and cope with those feelings. With the best care in a welcoming environment and aftercare planning so you can figure out the next steps after receiving full-treatment services, you can move forward more successfully after this loss.

Of course, you shouldn’t have to deal with your grief alone. If you’re a senior who belongs to a National Honor Scholarship Society like the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), you can tap into their mental health resources to make your high school journey easier to navigate. While this organization is dedicated to high school students and undergraduates looking for greater success in their academic future, they also have plenty of literature and opportunities to help you cope with the stress of your school career. Remember, you’re never alone when you’re dealing with grief.

Take a mental health day when things get really bad.

Education is important in the United States, especially if you’re aiming for a career in which you need a degree. However, obtaining scholarships, joining national honor societies, cultivating leadership skills in your local community, and maintaining your GPA can be just too much to deal with. This is why stress is on the rise for high school seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. Add this stress of high academic achievements to friendships and your home life, and your grief can be the final straw. When you can’t cope with loss or function as you normally would in school, it’s time to take a day or so off so that you can de-stress and collect yourself. Mental health days have become especially popular in today’s demanding society, and it’s completely understandable if you take some time off given the circumstances. You can only focus on your academics when you’re healthy and in the right frame of mind.

Return to your education later if you need longer to cope.


Let’s imagine that you’re a recently graduated senior who has everything lined up. For example, you got into the political science program at Southern Illinois University, you managed to find scholarships and financial assistance to put you through college, and you know exactly what you want to do throughout your college journey. However, you recently experienced a loss that has left you feeling depressed. The reality is that you can absolutely take time off. Plenty of college students don’t go to school right after high school, and there will still be a scholarship program, degree, and opening for you in a year or more. If you’re not emotionally ready right now, and putting in the hard work to keep your college grades in good standing sounds exhausting, take time off. You can come back when you’re ready to face all of this!

Adolescents dealing with grief and loss may feel even more stress when thinking about going back to school. However, there are ways to navigate your academic journey without feeling overwhelmed. Whether it’s seeing a therapist to cope with grief and mental health issues (or getting residential treatment from a treatment center), taking time off, or even putting college off until you feel better, schooling doesn’t have to have a further negative impact on your mental health.

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