Surviving Grief as a Teen
The Holmes-Rahe Inventory, a world-renowned tool that documents life’s most stressful events, lists the death of someone close to you as one of the Top 5 most difficult life events. If you lose a parent, it can be particularly tough because your main support system may be lost as well. Recent studies have shown that when a parent dies suddenly, most teens experience grief that subsides over time. However, some teens find it difficult to survive the loss and may experience an increased risk of depression or inability to function normally.
Why is getting help important?
If you have very persistent grief, it is important to seek professional help. As mentioned above, strong grief can lead to psychiatric problems. Researchers warn that after two to nine months, if intense grief continues, it is a sign that a teen is not surviving grief well. The findings are also a wake-up call to the importance of preventing severe grief from taking over a teen. Even though grief can make us feel powerless, this time is also one in which we are often required to remain strong or think clearly. You may notice your surviving parent making financial arrangements or discussing changes for the family, which may include downsizing your home, changing your residence, etc. During this time, your input counts so the more mentally clear and strong you are, the better you can express yourself and handle the changes that the loss of a loved one may bring to your family.
The right of teens to grieve
Receiving help does not mean eradicating your right to grieve. The Mourner’s Bill of Rights for Children and Teens, created by The Bereavement Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Notes that youths have fundamental grieving rights that should be respected by others. These include: the right to be sad and cry even if other people think you shouldn’t; the right to make some decisions for yourself; the right to be angry because of the death of a loved one; the right to ask for help from teachers, friends, or other adults; and the right to be a teacher. If you feel like living, laughing, or playing, do so. You are only a teen once and you should take advantage of the beautiful moments of inspiration you may have during this tough time.
Understanding that grief involves different stages
Grief can be complicated because you may feel so differently from one day to the next. You may start to feel stronger, only to feel totally down in the dumps the following day. Try and do a little reading, in particular into the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, one of the most famous thinkers and writers on the subject of grief. Kübler-Ross said that there were five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her research showed her that human beings do not necessarily go through these stages chronologically. Sometimes, we can spend a long time in one stage then go through others quickly, or go back, for instance, to feeling depressed after we have already felt acceptance. It is important for teen girls to understand that all these emotions are normal.
Lowering your stress
To enable you to withstand grief, try to instill as calm a state of mind as possible by adopting stress busting methods such as meditation, yoga, or even breathing. Studies have shown that these holistic practices can help teens with anxiety and depression. Research has also shown that social support is very important. In addition to finding support from friends and family, try to take part in community activities – anything from sports to worship. These activities will open your circles and help you feel less alone when the pain feels like more than you can handle.
The loss of a loved one can make you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. As a teen, you are at a crossroads in life in which parents in particular play such an important role, though the loss of a sibling, grandparent, or good friend can be devastating as well. Realize that grief is a cyclical thing, get help if you need it, and rely on other loved ones to help you feel like you aren’t alone at one of the toughest times in life.