UNDERSTANDING TEEN GRIEF

UNDERSTANDING TEEN GRIEF December 15th, 2014

Copyright: elbepictures / 123RF Stock Photo

 

So, in my last blog I touched on bereavement counseling in general. Now I want to talk about bereavement specifically with teenagers.  Adolescent grief or bereavement is normal and natural. Grief is not an illness; it is a normal reaction to loss. Teenagers need to ask questions. Give them prompt and correct information. Allow them to express every concern and to participate in all rituals having to do with the death and the grieving process. Allow them to be comforted by those who are still alive. Do not keep your teenager from going to funerals; encourage and support them to do so. Unlike very young children, teenagers can be given details about how a loved one died. Grieving involves many complicated feelings, such as anger, guilt, shame, conflict, and even rage. Teenagers may sometimes feel that they want to join the dead loved one. Sometimes they may even feel that they see or hear the image or voice of the dead person (read my “Dreams of the Departed” blog from November). You should encourage discussion about this. Of course, if the wish to be with the loved one is accompanied by actual suicidal plans or behaviors, or the wish to be dead, you need to seek immediate professional help. Emphasizing the positive relationship that your teen had with the dead person – going through old pictures, telling old stories, and answering all questions about the deceased – will go a long way. Parental honesty, availability and support are the key to helping the teenager work through grief. Harm is done not from honest confrontation and discussion of death but rather from misguidedly trying to protect the teenager through avoidance, hypocrisy, duplicity, and misinformation. Not only should family members be honest and open, but they should tend to their grief, as well. Shared grief ultimately becomes less of a burden to all. Whatever the means of achieving it – the real goal is to keep communication open at all times! DISCLAIMER 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.