TEENS & THE LONG GOODBYE

APRIL 17TH, 2015

In the past, dying was a sudden and unexpected event. Today, living with death is an all-new experience that has families and loved ones living with death over a period of months, even years. With two-thirds of those diagnosed today with cancer living close to five years, the grieving process has begun a lot sooner and lasts a lot longer. The new process begins with a life-threatening diagnosis, proceeds through a period of treatment (or treatments) and ends eventually in death.

30026792_sOne of the more significant changes in the grieving process is the inclusion of the person who is dying. Supporting a terminally ill loved one isn’t easy; especially true for teenagers. When parents are seriously ill, or parents become caregivers to seriously ill parents (the teenager’s grandparents), many of the normal family scenarios are reversed. A teenager, experiencing the normal growing pains of adolescence, may feel that their problems are insignificant compared to those faced by their ailing family member. A teenager can feel alone during this difficult time.

Parents – healthy or sick – must realize that there is no greater blow to a child’s sense of security and safety than a mother or father who is seriously ill. Even though, teenagers are more able to understand, accept, and adhere to the adaptations the family must make to care for an ill parent; they still need to be reassured that they are loved. They need to participate in as many normal activities as they can and they need to focus on positive family activities that can be shared by everyone.

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, consider getting help with the daily household chores to cut down on family stress. Make sure that you have time to spend with your teenager. Go to an athletic event, open house, shopping or to dinner and a movie. It is important to find a routine.

Parents need to be conscious of how they react to their illness or the illness of their spouse or parent. Your teen will mimic your reaction in most cases. If you show panic and despair, they will show panic and despair. If you show understanding, patience and strength, they will show understanding, patience and strength. Be honest with your teenager about what is happening and invite them to vent their distress and anxiety openly. Help them to understand that grief is a family matter, and that the “long goodbye” is something the entire family will share.

Disclaimer

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.