Category Archives: Tattooed by Grief

TIME!!

Another key to understanding the uniqueness of grief in youth are the many physical changes they are going through just being teens. Their bodies are changing radically. For some it is hard for their wardrobes to keep up. When their bodies ache from the physical changes and the heart aches from loss, life can be overwhelming. They may already be moody and grief intensifies that.

They need adults who are willing:coffee 1

  • to come alongside them,
  • spend time with them,
  • listen to them, and listen some more
  • assure them that they are feeling is normal
  •  It is important for them to know they have support and what they are experiencing is normal. For them these feelings may seem to last forever, but being reminded that it is temporary is important.  Just like growing pains, the grief will subside. They will heal. This is temporary, long and drawn our but temporary none the less.

        “Even though I wrote quite a bit in my journal I wish I had written more. I’m having hard days      helps to read my words and see how far I’ve come since that day” Katie age 15

Making journals is a good hands on expression of their grief, honoring the loved one they lost. Use an inexpensive composition book and cover it with a collage with their own drawings or pictures, phrases, and words cut from magazines that remind them of their loved ones.

This journal becomes a safe place to write their thoughts, poems, stories, and draw pictures of what they are feeling at a given time during their grief journeys. Then they can go back to these journals and see their progress over time. The outside of the journal represents not only how unique their loved ones were but also their own uniqueness.

Excerpt from Tattooed By Grief by Cari Zorno

 

Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride

roller-coaster-16437706[1]

How will they know they are healing? Grief is an emotional roller coaster. One minute, the grieving teen feels really sad, possibly even crying for no reason they can pin down. The next minute a friend tells a joke and they laugh.It can pass as quickly as it came.

“The more I opened up about the loss, the lighter the weight became. As I look back, the sadness, obviously, did not go away or fade; it just became more endurable. It became something I could live with instead of    preventing me from living.” Chelsea, age 16

This roller coaster ride can continue for quite a while, but eventually the ups stay longer and the downs become shorter. They will know there is healing when the sun seems to shine brighter, when they can feel happy longer.

Documenting today will help them tomorrow. It is recorded in black and white that they are healing.

  • Journaling and diaries                                    pen-journal-open-blank-empty-page-7398267[1]
  • Drawing, collages, sketches, doodles
  • Craft projects

They will know there is healing when they can look back at things they had written or drawn and see how they have changed. They can reflect back on conversations they had in the beginning and realize that their moods are improving.

For this reason it is important for youth to document how they feel physically and emotionally each week. Watch for small improvements you can point out to them. Tracking improvement can be very encouraging. They need someone that is on the outside looking in to help them gain perspective.

 

 

BREAK IT UP!

shooting hoops

shooting hoops

 

“Don’t ignore your feelings, run from them, or hide from them, because they will get you no matter where you are. For me it was best to feel them in the moment; I’d allow myself 30 minutes to grieve, and then move on with my day.” Jocelyn, age13

 

Grieving is hard work that can only be done in short bursts of intense pain. The pain needs to be broken up with activity as a friend you may:

  • Suggest going for a walk,
  • Shoot hoops with them
  • Go swimming together
  • Watch a funny or action movie

All these can be good releases for the tension of grief. The pain needs to be broken into manageable pieces. It is unhealthy to be expected to be sad all the time. Emotions will be a rollercoaster ride. So, be patient. This is why it is so important for youth to know they do not need to walk this journey alone. Going through it with support, with community, makes it easier.. When a teen seems constantly sad, it may be time to seek professional help they may be suffering from depression.

Grief is temporary, although we do not know how long it will last since each loss is unique. Assure your friend:

  • What they are feeling right now is temporary. No matter how long it feels like it takes, it is temporary. These feelings will not last forever. Honestly, depending on the relationship, it could be either a few months or a few years before they move forward in their lives.
  • Everyone’s grief is unique. They shouldn’t compare their grief with someone elses.

* A recent study by Lebel and Beaulieu reinforces findings that the human brain doesn’t stop developing at adolescence but continues well into our twenties. This contributes to a teen’s inability to grasp cause and effect and to understand that what they are feeling is temporary. The concept of the temporariness of grief needs to be repeated frequently.

Copyright Cari Zorno Tattooed by Grief 2014

“No one understands!”

?????????????????????????????????????          We who have spent any time with teens have heard the words “No one understands!” Most of us have even said it, but in the instance of grief, those words have a reverberating ring of truth. No one does understand. Grieving the death of a grandparent or a pet is done at a different level than grieving the death of an immediate family member or close friend.

            “Friends my age didn’t know what to say. Some related the experience to losing a family pet, which made me mad. Other people would tell me I needed to move on because it happened a long time ago. Of course, my family and people who knew my brother John, like his girlfriend, would pray for me and could understand my feelings.” Ashley, age 11

One item we all need to grasp is NO ONE fully understands, not friends, not parents, not counselors, and not even those who have also experienced the death of that same loved one. No one understands because each teen is unique, and the relationship with the deceased was unique; therefore, the grief is unique.

BUT those who have experienced loss “get it.” They get that the sadness is deep and dark, and it casts a dense cloud over life. They also “get” that grief needs a relief valve of times of activity, fresh air, and laughter. They get that it will last longer than anyone wants, and it can wait in hiding and ambush the teen when he or she least expects it and finds “goodbyes” need to be said all over again. Just because the grieving teen laughs does not mean he or she is “over it” or “ready to move on.” No one understands, but the grieving need to know there are others around who “get it.”

Excerpt from Tattooed by Grief  by Cari Zorno

 

The Hole

Being 13 when my friend Jack died, I was unprepared; I had no tools or coping skills on my side. So, I went to Cari. She gave me ideas like singing, writing letters, to express what I felt and then move on with my day. Overall, those feelings were so intense and overpowering that the best way to deal with them was to feel them. Not to ignore them, run from them, hide from them, because they would get me no matter where I was. It was just best to feel them in the moment; I would allow myself time to grieve and then move on with my day.” Jocelyn, age 13 at time of death      

hole photo

Death leaves a hole, a huge gaping hole, in the teen’s life. This hole may be evidenced by the empty chair; at the dinner table, the lunch table or in the classroom. Our culture tells us to replace the loss, remove or fill the empty chair, and “move on.” God says to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). What the grieving teen needs is for someone to encourage them to embrace the loss and walk through the grief, not run away from or around it. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb. As comforters you are to weep with the teen, listen to them, walk with him or her through the dark places, and help identify if those places are too dark or too long and professional help is needed.

The death of a close loved one is similar to an amputation. A part of them is gone, never to return. The pain is stabbing and sometimes incapacitating. Slowly healing takes place, and the wound is fitted with a prosthetic in order to move forward with life. At first the prosthetic rubs and chaffs, but it conforms and becomes usable. Over time and with work, the wounded teen adapts to the way life is now and moves forward. But one thing is for certain: the amputee never forgets he or she once had two hands and two feet. Eventually the grieving too learns how to adapt and is able to move forward.

The first step in walking with grieving teens is developing a relationship, getting close, and showing them that we care. Taking time away from our busy lives to just sit over a cup of coffee or shoot hoops makes great strides in this direction. Getting to know them, really know them, is a lost art. We know many people but don’t really know them. When comforting grieving teens, ask gentle probing questions, which may look like idle talk but have direction. Find out their favorite color, snack food, movie genre, and sport. This is the first step in knowing what to do for them on those tough days, which we will discuss later. No one cares how much we know until they know how much we care.