Grief can be an incredibly difficult experience to go through. It can lead to depression, fear, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. In fact, the following is a list of what a teen might experience when they experience grief or loss in their life:
- Academic problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Stress and worry
- Sadness or anger towards one or both parents
- Acting out behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal Ideation and perhaps attempts
- Having trouble with authority at school or with the police
- Trouble getting along with siblings, peers, and parents
- Getting involved with sexual activity
- Difficulty with forming intimate relationships
In order to effectively cope with the loss you’re feeling, try one or more of the following suggestions:
Attend a support group or group therapy. A support group is a group of teens that are experiencing the same issue or problem. It can be very useful to learn that there are others who have the same pains and emotional challenges as you. Furthermore you can learn coping tools from one another while hearing each other’s story. Group therapy is very similar to attending a support group. The main difference is that within the group there is a trained mental health professional. Essentially, group therapy includes one or more therapist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional that are facilitating treatment for a group of individuals. It has been proven to be effective within the mental health field and it is a form of treatment that many counseling and treatment centers use. In fact, group therapies are as diverse as the wide variety of individual therapies. Some groups are more psychologically oriented, serving to address the specific issues that a teen might be experiencing while others are more social in nature. For example, support groups can be solely educational, teaching participants the proven psychological effects of divorce or teaching teens healthy coping mechanisms. Or group therapy can be a time for participants to have a therapeutic experience that bring insight, healing, and hope.
Begin therapy. Another form of therapy, different from group therapy, is individual therapy. It is an opportunity to talk one on one with someone you trust. As mentioned earlier, the grieving process has been well studied and there is a documented process of the typical stages that a teen might go through when grieving from a significant loss in life. Attending individual therapy with a mental health professional can facilitate an easier journey through this process.
Talk to friends and family when you can. Sometimes during the grieving process, you’re likely going to feel like being alone. You may not want to talk to anyone. Yet, at times, talking to someone, especially someone who also knew the loved one you lost can be cathartic. You might find that sharing those feelings of sadness, anger, denial, and pain with someone else you love can be incredibly liberating.
Read books about teen grief and loss. And if you don’t want to talk to anyone, if you want to be alone, you can always find support inside books about grieving and loss. There are many books, written especially for teens who are grieving. When you’re looking for support but you don’t necessarily want to go to someone, you can turn to the gentle words in the following books:
- Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love by Earl A. Grollman
- Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins: A Journal for Teenagers Experiencing a Loss by Enid Samuel Traisman
- When A Friend Dies: A Book for Teens About Grieving and Healing by Marilyn E. Gootman, Pamela Espeland, and Deborah Prothrow-Stith
- The Grieving Teen: A Guide for Teenagers and Their Friends by Helen Fitzgerald
- Child’s View of Grief by Alan D. Wolfelt, Lori Mackey (Illustrator)
- Healing Your Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Teens by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
- After Suicide by John H. Hewett and Wayne E. Oates
These are a few simple suggestions to handle the difficult experience of loss. If you’re feeling sad or depressed because of losing someone in your life (and the divorce of parents can also be a significant loss), try one of the above suggestions.