Monthly Archives: September 2014

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

Outsider

grieving teen   Personality types respond differently under the stress of grief. Extroverts who are stressed tend to pull inward and become uncharacteristically quiet. A person who is sullen and detached might be an extrovert under stress. Introverts who are stressed tend to “lash out” or “freak out.” A person who is animated and speaking out may be an introvert experiencing stress. (Schneider and Prudhomme, 2014).

When teens experience the death of a close friend, this death may be felt as deeply as and sometimes even more deeply than the death of a family member. Youth often spend more time with their peers, making those relationships extremely close. Each relationship is unique, so we cannot expect grief to be the same for all. Grief doesn’t make sense; sometimes a grieving teen may feel disconnected, like a third party watching from a distance or the mind may go into hyper-drive yet be unable to connect the thoughts.

While everyone will walk through sorrow in different ways and at varying speeds and depths of feeling, the important focus is to go through it, not around it by avoiding or numbing the feelings through self-medication of drugs or alcohol.

Feelings need to get expressed somehow. Expression of those feelings may take the form of written, drawn, or spoken words, but for some the feelings need to be put into action. This can be done with dance, hiking, running, just to name a few. Grief that is not expressed cannot heal. Bottled up or buried grief may manifest in anger or bitterness, which can be harmful to the hurting teen and to others. Teens need to be encouraged to be bold enough to share their feelings in a way most comfortable for them.

“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