The Death of a Parent as a Teenager

Losing his Dad as a teenager was a shock for Ryan

Losing a parent as a child is always a difficult experience, but for Ryan Gallagher, a firefighter from Burlington in Canada, it was a huge shock. When he was just 16, Ryan’s father died as Ryan himself was performing CPR. Ryan talks to me about how he never really ‘coped’ with what happened, just getting on with his teenage life, doing his usual things.

Using unhealthy coping strategies

As a teenager, grieving the loss of his father was just something Ryan compartmentalised so he could cope. It was only when he was a little older, and started drinking, that he realised alcohol made him feel ‘better,’ and he started using it to avoid dealing with difficult feelings around his father’s death.

Recovering from alcohol misuse

Having used alcohol and food to prop himself up through several years, Ryan now has a wonderful attitude to his mental health, which he describes as getting out of his head and creating his own story.

He has the most wonderful, down-to-earth tips for anyone trying to cope with unhealthy habits. In his podcast Mental Edge Lifestyle he aims to show anyone struggling that “they’re not as different as they think.” That whatever you’re going through, there’s always someone going through the same, and that there is a way through it to a brighter part of your story.

Ryan Gallagher on losing a parent as a teenager

I loved Ryan’s honesty, his ownership of his problems, and his acceptance that he is the only person who can change the things he doesn’t like about his life. It takes work, and it takes time, but you have what it takes to do it.

I hope this episode helps even just one family to start to understand how to approach the emotional challenges that come with the death of a parent as a teenager.


Advice for families of teenagers dealing with bereavement

“We just need to paint the bigger picture for them.”

Ryan says that once we get out of our own heads and realise that it’s not just us going through tough things – that we’re not the only ones feeling the way we feel – it’s easier to take control of our lives and make decisions that will help us find a way through the most difficult times.

Where to get support with teenage bereavement

I’ve also read this post about dealing with the death of an estranged parent, which might help if this is your reality right now. 

Where to connect with Ryan

Where to listen:

You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, or if you prefer, you can listen online below, or through the podcast page.

View on Zencastr

Subscribe to the Teenage Kicks podcast

Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for future topics on the Teenage Kicks podcast. Contact me here, or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamhelenwills. I appreciate every message, and love to hear from my listeners.

I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it.

For information on your data privacy please visit Zencastr. Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in this blog or in the podcast should be taken as medical advice.

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