Coping with a friend's death

Children and adolescents grieve in their own way according to their unique developmental timeline. It can be challenging for parents and adults to understand their children’s grief reactions and how to best support them. This discussion group will feature topics that relate to supporting children and teens in managing the big feelings of grief.

Coping with a friend's death

Postby d_butler » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:35 pm

The grieving process is very similar to the varying waves of the ocean. Grief is different for each person and you are going through your own unique grieving experience. Be patient with yourself and know that you might experience some of the following reactions: sadness, eating difficulties, muscle tightness, irritability, withdrawal, confusion, migraines, inattention and helplessness. Each reaction that you are experiencing is the body’s normal and natural response to loss. It is important to take care of you and allow yourself time to heal. Take the time to laugh by watching a comedy, listen to music, write in your journal, draw, enjoy nature or confide in a trusted friend or adult. Remember to be honest with yourself and if you begin to notice that you are having extreme feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and are depressed it is okay to ask for help. There is no right answer or easy way to speed up the grieving process so take the time to remember your friend and know that you are not alone.
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Re: Coping with a friend's death

Postby shamme-hwr » Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:03 pm

I had the opportunity this past winter to spend time talking with a group of 5th and 6th graders who had experienced a death. At one point I asked them who handles death and grief better, adults or kids/teens? They felt that kids do a much better job which did not surprise me, but what did surprise me was their explanation of why. The primary and universal thought of this group was that the adults in their lives are so uncomfortable with death that they did not want to talk to them. They feared that they may upset the adults in their lives further, or that the adults could be of little comfort to them due to their own lack of ability to face their grief. When I asked for examples they said things like, not using the word death or die, not providing answers to questions about the death, trying to pretend that they were not upset when they clearly are, trying not to cry, and avoiding talking about it. It was interesting to me that the very things that we do to protect our young people from the pain of grief are the things that keep them from coming to us. It is natural to want to protect others from seeing the rawness and depth of pain that we have when we are grieving. How amazing would it be if we were able to feel comfortable enough to show our adolescents that we hurt too and that are we going to walk through this messy journey called grieving with them honestly. One young man shared that the only person he feels comfortable with sharing his grief is his grandmother. She talks with him often about how much she misses his mom and weeps at times. She is the one that he feels comfortable crying in front of because he knows that he does not have to explain his tears, he has seen hers and knows that she understands his.
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Re: Coping with a friend's death

Postby dscowan » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:03 am

There are many ways adults can support grieving adolescents. Grieving adolescents need the opportunity to share their story of grief. Find opportunities that allow adolescent to share. The more they keep their feelings inside, the harder it becomes to express them. Unexpressed feelings fester within our bodies and can lead to greater problems. Writing gives our grief words. Putting thoughts and feelings in journals, letters to the person who has died, poems, and stories gives the grieving adolescent an avenue to express feelings.

Music plays an important role in the lives of adolescents. Communicating through music can enhance our understanding of grieving adolescents. Certain songs elicit feelings, thoughts and memories related to the person who has died. Music can help adolescents share what they are experiencing with someone else and break through the defenses of grief. Adolescents may want to write original music in tribute to the person who has died or select music that reminds them of their loved one and discuss these lyrics.

Art provides another creative outlet for grieving adolescent to create a visual image of their feelings and their story of grief. They may want to create a legacy such as a quilt or a memory box. These visual images can open communication and provide a healthy grieving process.

Although it may be difficult to support grieving adolescents, accompanying them on their journey of grief can be a life changing experience.
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Re: Coping with a friend's death

Postby d_butler » Tue Mar 24, 2015 10:31 am

School administration, faculty and staff play an instrumental role in supporting the grieving child or adolescent. Throughout the years several teens have shared with me that school is a place of refuge for them after the death of a friend. Many teens often feel that their grief reaction is overlooked and minimized by the adults in their lives and need a safe environment to share their stories and grieve the death of their friend. The death of a friend is a significant loss and being surrounded by peers provides comfort. It is important to provide youth with an opportunity to discuss their feelings and listen without passing judgment. Providing the student with an outlet to memorialize and honor the death of their friend through music, writing, art or simply talking and sharing memories aids in the grieving process. Follow the student's lead, allow them to talk amongst each other and modify their daily schedules as needed. A consistent routine and open communication is vital. Remember a child or adolescent spends the majority of their day in school and wants to know their loss is being acknowledged and there is an opportunity to receive support at school.
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