The tragic death of 16 players and staff members of Humboldt Broncos, an ice hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada, in a disastrous road accident on April 16, 2018, has left the entire local community heartbroken, especially their teenage friends and classmates. The survivors are finding it difficult to come out of the shock and guilty. The policymakers are trying to identify effective ways to support these adolescents in overcoming their grief, accepting the truth and getting back to their daily life.
Emotions like grief, bereavement and sorrow are generally associated with adults. Since children and adolescents are often unable to express their feelings, it is wrongfully believed that they remain untouched by such overwhelming emotions. However, studies have highlighted that the above-mentioned feelings are as common in teenagers as in adults. Hence, witnessing the death of a loved one can cause immense grief in teenagers as well. The only difference will be how these emotions are manifested among adolescents. Moreover, adolescence is the key developmental stage of life that leads to a range of hormonal and biological changes in teenagers. As a result, their reactions can vary from the feeling of numbness to changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
Despite hurdles, experts believe that teenagers can handle grief more efficiently than adults. Since they are yet to learn the techniques and ways to avoid or repress their feelings, they end up processing and expressing emotions a lot more naturally than adults. However, it is important to handle teen grief and loss more sensitively. Some of the effective ways that can be undertaken by parents and caregivers include:
- Depending on the gravity of loss witnessed by a teenager, his or her reaction can range from sadness to extreme anger. Also, these feelings can convert into some other feelings over the period. Therefore, parents should avoid making assumptions. Instead, they should observe their teens for warning signs like skipping school, going in isolation, avoiding socialization, sleeping problems, taking alcohol or drugs, indulging in aggressive behaviors, getting into trouble with the law, etc.
- Tackling teens by giving them adequate time and space for sharing their emotions instead of poking them to express their feelings. This will allow them to come to terms with the personal loss on their own.
- Sharing the feelings about the personal loss can also encourage the teens to candidly express their feelings. Although teens may or may not relate with their emotions, this will surely build trust between them and their parents; this will allow them to open up with their parents.
- Encouraging adolescents to openly mourn and express their emotions about their personal loss rather than condemning them as weak. The suppression of feelings can increase the risk of giving rise to negative thoughts and suicidal ideation.
- Lending ears to the teens will be helpful in identifying the cause of grief and chalking out solutions to support them cope with their sorrow.
- Avoiding clichéd sentences like “don’t feel bad,” “be strong,” “everything will okay,” etc.
Treat teen grief and loss with respect
Some griefs and miseries can take a heavy toll on the life of a teenager by making him or her incompetent to conduct even the regular activities of life. Parents should not hesitate in seeking professional help from a medical practitioner qualified in teen grief and loss. It particularly becomes necessary to seek medical help when a teen is unable to open about his or her grief with parents or friends. In such circumstances, trained therapists play a vital role in convincing and encouraging teens to share their concerns without any inhibitions.
If you are looking for a teen grief and loss treatment center to help your child come out of his or her grief, contact White River Academy for help. Located in Delta, Utah, it is the leading therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenagers that can help your teen recover in a safe environment. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to know more the best teen grief and loss treatment.