“Grandma was different.  I could talk to her.  She never judged me.  I can’t imagine her not being here.  Sometimes – to tell the truth, Mom, I wanna go wherever she is.  What will I do without her in this world?”

I was reading the CNN Heroes piece posted online “Helping Baltimore’s grieving kids heal” by Marissa Calhoun (CNN).  A great story about “Roberta’s House” founded in June of 2007 by the children of the late Julia Roberta March.  March was the matriarch and co-founder of the March Funeral Homes in Baltimore, Maryland. She was known as the heart of the business, and she counseled and comforted many who were bereaved.   Her children decided it was only fitting to create a bereavement center in her name.

“Roberta’s House” volunteers and staff counsel children, teens and adults on dealing with their grief.   It is a place where trained volunteers and staff help individuals and families share their feelings, memories and experiences in a safe and loving environment.

As a child psychiatrist, over the years I have received many calls from worried parents concerned about children who have lost someone through death.  With the younger children the concerns tend to be more about whether they should attend funerals, and be talked to about death and the process of dying.   Most calls about teenagers who are grieving are from parents who are worried that their child might suffer serious depression or other pathologies during their teenage years.

Adolescent grief or bereavement is normal and natural.  Teenagers who are grieving have many characteristics of adults who are grieving such as becoming somewhat withdrawn and isolated, to feeling anger, guilt, and helplessness.  They often yearn for the return of a loved one.  It is important to allow our grieving children and teenagers to experience this stage in life normally, without interfering in the process they must undergo to get through it.

I think it is wonderful that “Roberta’s House” is not only guiding the children and teens, but working with the whole family to get through it. I sometimes think that it is not the death of a loved one that causes problems as much as the mishandling of the grieving process by others (whose intentions are good, but misguided).  In other words, normal grief does not cause pathology, but grief that is interfered with might.

Roberta’s House is one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2014. They will be honored at the annual tribute show, which airs Sunday, December 7.  Here is a link to their website:  “Roberta’s House”.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

I will share with you some of my own thoughts on how to deal with teenagers and grieving in my next blog.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.