I wrote this article in response to the recent and tragic death of a local UCVTS student. Grief affects all ages and while this article relates to adolescent grief, it can be applied to any age.
3 Vital Tips for Supporting a Grieving Adolescent
When a peer dies, teenagers are confronted with the realities of death…a very scary topic – One that many of us find taboo to speak of. Many teenagers believe death only happens to old people, therefore when it does happen to a friend or peer, beliefs about life and the world are shaken. Below are some tips regarding how to assist teenagers as they grieve.
Communication is key… WHEN he or she is ready!
Encourage your teen to talk about the death without being overbearing. You may hear others suggest not to talk about it because it is upsetting or depressing. Anyone dealing with grief may need to talk about the loss, but in small doses. It is important to know that loss and death are not taboo subjects. While many friends and family may not encourage talking about it or even want to talk about it, it helps to share how you are feeling. Do not feel that you cannot say the name of the person that has passed away.
Everyone grieves in their own way and that may not include talking about it, at least right away. Sometimes asking open ended questions can facilitate communication. For example, “How has it been for you since the death of your friend?"
Also, we need to remember that sometimes the grief expels itself not in a form of verbal communication, but even as an outlet on social media. Allow your teenager to express himself or herself how they see fit without fear of criticism.
2. Crying is OK!
Let your child cry. It is a myth that tears expressing grief are only a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, many people associate tears of grief with weakness. Your teen may hear “Tears won’t bring him back.” Or “He wouldn’t want you to cry.” Crying helps release the built up tension and even the anger he or she may feel. Allow that time and try not to discourage it. Tears are actually a healthy means of coping. Grief is actually something that needs to be experienced rather than overcome.
On the flip side, it is also ok for anyone grieving not to cry and should not be made to feel guilty over it (Read more in #3)
3. Stages of Grief? Are there any really?
There is no order or stages to the grief process despite what many of us believe. While many of us think that there is a set order to gain acceptance about a loss, there really is no set succession. The stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance can fluctuate.
Everyone grieves differently and while one peer may be in tears right now, another may be yelling out in anger and another one denying the death even occurred.
These stages can occur in any order and can waver between stages many times. The sense of loss does not magically disappear. The time table is different for everyone. Just let it be and try your best not to judge or criticize anyone for how he or she is responding to the loss. Never assume because a certain period of time has passed, an individual should be further along in their grief.
These 3 tips above are ones I am sharing as a Grief and Loss Life Coach. I also work for Union County Vocational Schools and am quite versed in the grief process myself. I lost my husband 3 years ago while pregnant with my second daughter and wholeheartedly believe if friends and family were provided with these tips and I was aware of them as well, my grief recovery would have been a bit smoother. My goal now is to empower and motivate others to move forward and find peace by rediscovering their dreams after coping with loss.
Feel free to reach out for additional support.
Rebecca Bergeron, C.P.C. (Certified Professional Coach)
Imagine Today Coaching