When a Teen is Grieving
Today's world can bring much sadness and grieving to our teens..with school shootings..and suicide..and drug over-doses to the young people.
Teens today face many pressures,decisions, and problems as a normal part of growing up.Like a death ,divorce, changing schools, friends moving away, or the break-up of a relationship.
So how can the parents or other caring adults be a support to a grieving teen?
Task # 1...Understanding and making sense of the death.
Task # 2...Grieving the loss.
Task # 3...Commemorating the life.
Task # 4...Going on with Life.
"Teens need to know that their grief is respected and understood."
Teens naturally react to loss in many ways..so expect to see changes,,,maybe Physical reactions: like stomachaches, headaches,appetite changes,distrubing dreams and changes in sleep patterns.
Increased sensitivity, silence and withdrawal are all possible Emotional reactions.Be an empathic listener as they may experience fear,anger, guilt,regret,confusion,and loneliness. encourage them to express their feelings.
They may experience Psychological reactions, such as missed school assignments, daydreaming, declining grades, loss of concentration and forgetfulness. These are all common. you can talk with their teachers and see if they can lower the load for a while.
Sometimes grieving teens withdraw from family, friends, and activities..It is not one that usually lasts for long, but be aware and watch for signs them associating with troubled teens,drug or alcohol use, as well as sexual or criminal activity.
IF ANY OF THE PREVIOUS THINGS MENTIONED GET REALLY BAD OR TOTALLY OUT OF HAND... IT WOULD BE WISE TO CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL.
Encourage teens to express their struggles..for instance they may question God...Or ask "why did this happen"..."why her"..'"why me" don't be judgmental..remember teens need patience, love and acceptance.
Remember it's hard being a teen. I sure do..and seems things were easier when I was one.During this time we are experiencing many emotional, physical and psychological changes. dealing with "should we drink with our friends?" Or no thank you I don't care for drugs..then there is smoking..everyone is doing it..and of course Sex..So when a major loss happens it becomes even more complicated for them..So how can we help?
Always be available and simply listen. Quietly listening and not saying anything can help them feel they can vent and safely express their feeling to you.To communicate that you are really listening(which many teens think we don't do) you can repeat what they are saying and in that way it will let them know you hear them. Or simply put yours arms around them hug them tightly and let them cry.."I know it hurts" whispered in their ears."just let it all out"
Learn about the grief process. . there are some good resources that discuss teenage grief. In her book LIFE & LOSS: A guide to help grieving children,Linda goldman writes about four tasks associated with teenage grief work. ( as stated above).
Some Basic Needs of Grieving Teenagers.....by***The Dougy Center***
Helping Teens Cope with Death. the list as follows:
Truth and nothing but the truth
Acceptance and love
Clear and reasonable boundaries
Privacy and space
Time with friends
Power and freedom to choose
Sleep, a good diet, and water
We need to understand that some feelings can be scary..The guilty feelings about some circumstances surrounding a death,,being angry at oneself, parents and God..and not knowing how to handle them. they need to feel free to talk these feelings and work through them so they don't make harmful decisions.Mostly anger is one good way to release,,a punching bag, throwing eggs at a tree, screaming into a pillow,and always writing your feelings down are good ways to express innermost feelings.
And there is the Team approach..It is a good thing to go to a community counseling organization,there are centers that can help grieving teens..also talking with other teens..
Teens can be understood so be their rock to cling to by listening patiently and showing love and acceptence as you help them work through their grief.
Sources of additional help:
Books for Adults: Helping teens cope with death by The Dougy Center
Books for teenagers: Straight talk about Death For Teenagers by Earl A. Grollman
CareNotes for Teens: Grieving When You Love Someone Close by Marianna Kane Neal