Bereavement in teens

Each year thousands of teenagers experience the death of someone they love. When a parent, sibling, friend, or relative dies, teens feel the overwhelming loss of someone who helped shape their -fragile self-identities. Caring adults, whether parents, teachers, counselors or friends, can help teens during this time. If adults are open, honest and loving, experiencing the loss of someone loved can be a chance for young people to learn about both the joy and pain that comes from caring deeply for others. There are many common reactions to trauma, grief, and bereavement among teens. First of all, shock and denial. Feeling numb, stunned and dazed are healthy and normal reactions. Often, it is difficult to take in information. The grieved may not have an appetite. People often feel completely exhausted, yet unable to sleep. The reverse may occur where people sleep most of the time. Feelings may range from fear and anxiety to guilt and depression. There are time some may feel they are going crazy. It is healthy to express true feelings in this stage. Some people find relief in crying and or talking to someone.

The next step is searching and yearning. During the time, the bereaved search for what was lost. It is during this period that the most bizarre behavior occurs. Guilt and anger are often a part of this phase, as people search for answers. It is important that the bereaved express feelings, including anger at God- if they have those feelings, jealousy and other strong emotions. They need not be ashamed of their feelings of anger turned inward becomes guilt and this leads to depression. The third step is disorientation and disorganization. The appetite is poor, people lack motivation, have impaired judgment and experience insomnia. As the bereaved struggle to be relieved of disorientation there is a search to find the answer that feels right to them. A listening ear is the greatest gift to the bereaved. Society expects mourners to be healed quickly and support is often lacking after a short time. Others tend to avoid talking about the person who has died, when that is the thing that helps the bereaved most. During disorientation the self-image is lowered and the mourner often isolates himself from others.

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The last step is reorganization and restoration. This phase does not occur quickly. Here people begin to sort out suspicions and attempt to identify what was lost. There is a sense of release, renewed energy, more socialization, better judgments and more stable eating and sleeping habits. Readaptation to the loss does not mean forgetting. Adults can begin to restore emotional well being by acknowledging feelings, asking for support, reestablishing routines and reaching out to others. They can care for the needs of children by listening to their feelings and fears, providing information to clarify what occurred and whether it can affect their lives and by reestablishing routines that will comfort and reassure. There are many factors that influence the reaction of a child when death is announced to them. Factors include, the way the news is broken to the teen, the way in which the death occurred, whether it be murder, illness, or suicide. Other factors include the way they understood or understand death when they where growing up, also there surroundings, such as family and friends reaction to the death around the teen. Most importantly, if the people around the teen are open and willing to be there for the teen in this time of grief. People must have some stable and emotional support for themselves, in this case the teenager.

During this period of time when a teen is going through such grief there are many reasons why the teenager would act in the way one does. There are many ways one can get help including bereavement camps. The outcome of attendance for the camps may not be very likely considering other things the teen is going through; not only the death. The decision of going to a bereavement camp is influenced by many aspects by any teen of this age is going through. These aspects that influence the decision are peer pressure, drugs and most importantly the environment that the teen is in. The environment that the teen is in may not be very supportive including the parents or the mentors. The community may also be a dynamic factor depending on if it provides a group for support or emotional stability such as a bereavement camp. In such a case of death a teen may not know how to cope so therefore he or she may react in a violent way or shut down all feelings of emotions and turn away from help. The teen may not realize that patience helps heal the hurt. Once a teen experiences something out of the norm such as death one begins to feel all emotions of sadness take over and the self esteem of the teen may drop tremendously on behalf of the death. No one should be alone during this period of hurt and sadness. There should be some form of emotional support from some surrounding family or friends. Allow the teen to feel comfortable and assure him or her that they are not alone. The supporter should allow the teen to express all feelings of hurt, sadness and even anger. No one can control the emotions that he or she is feeling so no one has the right to tell the teen how to feel or try to control the teens feelings. The teen will gradually understand that time is the key to pain and once time takes over it will all begin to brighten up the future.

These times of grief and hurt are hard for any one no matter what age group. Yet for teens there are other factors that influence the healing period. As long as there is some form of emotional support for the teen it will be an easier process to over come. One needs to realize that there are groups out there to help people who are experiencing such trauma and these groups will lead teens in the right healing path.