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Bereavement in Teens

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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.

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.




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