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Index cards are given to each student
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Anonymous questions and comments are read out loud
Students ask about grief
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Some share about their own losses

Teen Grief:
Grief is a mix of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, fear and anxiety that occurs whenever we experience a loss or are anticipating a loss.
Grief: the process of experiencing the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual responses to loss or the perception of loss.
The teen years are an especially difficult time to deal with the loss as young people are torn between independence and the need now for support from parents and family. Teens feel very conflicted and their feelings may be very intense at times which feels even more overwhelming.
Signs of Grief in Teens:
  • lack of concentration
  • shock, numbness
  • avoidance and retreat
  • constant thoughts of the loss
  • jealousy aimed at those who have what you do not
  • anger
  • self blame
  • confusion and feeling disoriented, feeling in a fog
  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • declining grades (ask a teacher to help you , ask a friend to help too, as this becomes another loss)
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • over-activity, acting too busy (to block out pain)
  • wanting to be alone a lot
  • deep sadness
  • drug and/or alcohol use or abuse
  • eating too much or too little (eating disorders)
  • risk taking behavior (especially when guilt is involved, like in an accident that another teen was involved in)
  • self destructive, anti-social or criminal behavior (cutting)
  • promiscuity  (often teens tell me they really only wanted someone to hold and comfort them. Be careful now as you are vulnerable)
  • thinking about suicide (talk to a trusted adult)
  • somatic manifestations of grief (stomach upsets, headaches, fatigue, symptoms similar to the deceased prior symptoms)

Healing looks like:

  • reorganizing life, gaining new insights, learning new skills
  • feeling peace with the past
  • wanting to be alone and quiet (be careful not to isolate)
  • increased sense of inner strength and abilty to listen to others
  • increased empathy for others' feelings
  • reconnection, resiliency and hope for the future

Techniques for Grief Work:

  • Try to  identify your feelings
  • Teens need to find safe ways to express their feelings
  • Write letters and shred them or save them in a notebook.
  • Arts and crafts help: finger-paints (really) pounding clay, playing with Play Doh (all my high school students love when I bring in Play Doh for them to play with while I talk to them)
  • Song writing and music helps. Many teens tell me they put on sad music or a sad movie to help them let it out.
  • Punch a pillow, hit a punching bag, exercise, work out
  • Shred paper,  throw bottles at a recycling center into the bin, stomp on paper cups, pop bubble wrap
  • Guitar Hero or Rock Band is a great way to vent, plus it keeps your mind focused which is a grief break. You need that now.
  • Eat healthy foods and snacks ( it is tempting to live on chocolate and junk, but actually makes you feel worse now)
  • Get enough rest and take naps if you can...grief is hard work. Many teens use sleep as a way to cope with grief too.
  • Keep a journal. Write down your feelings, thoughts, concerns, fears, and your regrets. You may share them with a trusted adult or not.
  • Don't keep your feelings inside, find someone you trust, who won't judge you and who know how to listen. Share with them with or just hang out in their presence. You don't have to tak about it. Every teen should have five safe adults to turn to: parent, neighbor, teacher, coach, clergy person, uncle..
  • Try to laugh when you can
  • Spend time with friends and family, people who care about you
  • Let your friends know what you need. Some teens talk about a loss a lot, others don't want to. 
  • Write a letter to God. Say whatever you need to say.
  • Visit the cemetery if it makes you feel better.
  • Make a memory book, collage, scrap book of memories
  • Remember that grief takes time, it is a process not an event.
  • Let yourself off the hook. It's common to feel responsible for a loss. If you feel guilty, please talk to a counselor. Guilty, regret and anger can hurt teens if left unexpressed.
  • Join a support group: www.good-grief.org  (teen group for kids who have lost a parent or sibling) 908-522-1999

 

Teens ask what is normal in grief
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Teens share their pain

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WARNING to TEENS:   Grief + Substances  can = Death 
 Don't become a statistic:
If you are struggling with substances, cutting, eating disorders, depression, anxiety or anything that is destructive to your well being please speak to a safe adult. If you have no one to talk to or if you need to speak to someone in the middle of the night or when no one is around: call: 2nd Floor 180 Turning Lives Around: NJ Hotline for Youth ages 10-24 years old: 1-888-222-2228   www.2NDFLOOR.org
If you live with someone struggling with substance abuse: contact:
Al-anon Family Groups: 973-744-8686  www.northjerseyal-anon.org
or
Alateen: ages 13-19 whose lives have been affected by someone else's drinking. Same contact info as above.

When I go into high schools I ask students to ask anonymous questions about grief and loss on index cards that I give out. They are also allowed to share a loss situation as well. Here are some of the cards I get. 
 
My dog died and he was my best friend.
 
How do I help my friend who always talks about his mom dying? I don't know how to make him stop crying.
 
Why must the good die young?
 
Is it okay to love my stepfather more than my real dad?
 
I am always stressed and angry what do I do to make it stop?
 
I don't like to cry about my aunt who died in front of my parents. Is that normal?
 
My friend is cutting and I don't know what to do.
 
My grandfather died last year. I was sad in the beginning but now I don't feel anything. Is that bad?
 
My grandma died last year and I barely cried but I want to.  
 
My friend makes herself sick and I'm worried because it's almost been a year of her doing that.
 
I think my is bi-polar, but I'm scared to talk to her about it.
 
How do you get passed the pain of divorce and how can you get rid of the pain?
 
My brother does a lot of bad things and he doesn't realize that if affects me but I am scared for him. 

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www.griefspeaks.com            lisa@griefspeaks.com          (973) 912-0177