|Westfield High School Students created these
|Grief Support Pillow Cases
|Westfield High School Students created these
|Grief Support Pillow Cases
Kids are not
supposed to die. It is against all the rules of nature. It isn't fair. It should not happen. Unfortunately, it does happen
and when it does, it can be scary. Peer relationships often seem more important to teens than family relationships. So the
death of a friend may significantly affect young people in ways that parents, teachers and other adults may not understand.
The death of a friend whom the parent never or seldom met may have very little effect on the parent, but it may have a huge
impact on the teen. When adults dismiss the impact of their teenager's grief it only makes it more complicated and often
leaves the teen alone in his or her grief.
Here are some comments
from other teens after the death of a friend from my all time favorite book for teens: When a Friend Dies: A Book for
Teens about Grieving and Healing by Marilyn Gootman, Ed.D (foreword by Michael Stipe, singer/songwriter, R.E.M.)
"My parents act like the death of my boyfriend shouldn't matter. They don't understand what he meant to me.
We really loved each other. We could talk about anything and everything. Maybe if my parents had taken the time to get to
know him, it would be different. They didn't want us together. I guess they'll never understand."
"They treated me like a stupid kid. I could tell they weren't telling me everything. They said it
was an accident. I knew it was bigger. Why couldn't they say, 'it was suicide,' and tell me the truth?"
When my friend died, the rest of the world kept going and no one knew what I was going through. No one could understand
the pain I was feeling. I wanted the world to stop and I wanted to just scream out,'Doesn't anyone realize that I am hurt?'
I kept looking at people and thinking, 'You don't have a care, and look at me, one of my friends just died."
"Things will never be the same."
Will I ever feel okay again?
I cried hysterically, and then I went numb-kind of like I was watching myself from the outside"
"I can't feel anything. It doesn't feel real."
can't believe this happened to one of us."
can't believe she is gone. I just saw her in math class yesterday."
feels like any minute he is going to walk right into this room. It doesn't seem like he is really gone."
After a peer dies, teens are confronted with the realities of death, the possibilities of their
own mortalitiy, and feelings of being abandoned by close friends. Young people often think that they are immune to death.
They think that death only happens to old people. When a friend died, their entire world and beliefs are shaken to the core.
Since teens' relationships are
often up and down, on and off, grief of a friend can be even more complicated. Grief can pull people together or apart. Some
teens following the death of a friend, come together and share their grief while other teens grieve alone or have difficulty
sharing their emotions around their loss. Most teen friendship revolve around fun times and shared activities. Grief
is not fun and is hard work. Sometimes the grief after the death of a friend is even harder as old friends sometimes start
to break apart as well and on top of the death, is the loss of other friends and good times.
Trust is important to teen relationships.
It is important that teens learn the truth about the death of their friend, how, when and where a peer died. Secrets, lies
and half truths, although meant to protect, only create anger and confusion. Teens deserve to know the truth. Teens want their
questions answered with the complete truth. If adults don't have the facts yet, then "I don't know" is the truth.
When young friends die,
sometimes it may be an anticipated death, due to a long term illness, but more often the death is sudden and violent. Sometimes
the death is a suicide. A friend's death through suicide, may be a teens' first introduction to death. These deaths are very
difficult to accept and leave teens wondering 'why' for a long, long time. If this happens a teen has every right to be shaken
up and you will want to find healthy ways to express your grief. Just because the friend is not an immediate family member
doesn't mean that it isn't taken as a great personal loss.
Many people are able to cry when they are very sad and may even sob. Others say that they have trouble crying. It is okay.
You do not have to cry to grieve. Many who miss a loved one very much don't cry on the outside but rather cry on the inside.
They think about their friend a lot or write poetry or in a journal. They write letters to the person or to their friend's
If your friend just died and there is a wake, service, Shiva or
funeral to attend decide first if you want to attend. Many teens find that it helps them to attend as they will receive support
from others who are grieving, they will be able to say goodbye to their friend and it helps them to know it is "real"
and that their friend is really dead. It may help to see the family and friends and share stories. Please under no
circumstances ever attend a funeral or service of any kind under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is not only completely
disrespectful to the family but chances are that you won't remember it and trust me, you will want to remember what was said
and who was there. For more information on attending a funeral visit the page : Funerals.
What helps after the death
of a teen friend?
- Find a safe and trusted adult to share with
- Talk to your friends and let them know what you need (to talk about it, not to talk about it, to
spend time with you or let you have some privacy)
helpful vents for your feelings (exercise, crying, writing in a journal, writing memories to the family, make a memory box
or memory book, get involved with a cause- in the case of a suicide: join www.afsp.org :( American Foundation for Suicide
Prevention- Walk out of Darkness to raise awareness about suicide prevention and to benefit suicide survivors) art, music,
nature, yoga, prayer, meditation, kick boxing, spending time with friends, punching a punching bag, squeezing Play Doh, ripping
up old phone books, starting a support group at school and many other ideas)
- Ask the family for a keepsake ( a stuffed animal, a shirt, a cd or book, a photo etc helps friends
feel close to the person who died.)
Keep a journal. Write to the friend who died. Write to the family. Write anything and everything. You can keep it in
your journal or rip it up, shred it, burn it, tie a note to a bio-degradable helium balloon and send it up into the air. Read
the letter to a trusted adult or counselor.
This also helps:
- Attend the wake, visitation, shiva or funeral if you are able.
(Rituals allow us to honor and memorialize someone who has died. It may be difficult to attend but participating in
such an event will help you acknowledge the loss and begin to reconcile yourself to it).
- There are 6 Needs of Mourning (Grief is what you think
and feel inside. Mourning is expressing your grief. It is letting it out. Everyone grieves, but only those who mourn can heal
and continue to live and love fully again.
1. Accept the reality of the death
2. Let yourself feel the pain of the loss (it is
so much more tempting to avoid, repress, deny or push away the pain of the grief, than it is to confront it. Dose your pain.
Let a little bit out at a time. Writing helps a lot.
3. Remember the person who died (find ways to remember the person)
4. Develop a new self-identity ( the way you and society defines you has changed perhaps)
5. Search for meaning
( it is normal to question the meaning of life and death. Talking to adults about this may help too).
6. Let others help you, now and always (
as a teen it is normal to want to keep adults at a distance. Grief is not an "on your own" kind of task to deal
with. It is the hardest work that anyone ever has to deal with. Talk to adults who care about you, or let them talk to you.
Join a support group, mail your thoughts to a caring adult helps too. Talk to your friends about it too.)
the name of the person who died. (Don't avoid their name. It is good to say it outloud).
Keep a journal
Keep a memento of the person who died
Get plenty of rest, water and exercise
Let go of the myths of grief: Myths
include: get over it, be strong, don't talk about it, tears are weakness, grieve alone)
These myths are not true. They are harmful thoughts that some
adults even believe. Grief is normal and natural. Allow it to come as it comes. No two people grieve in the exact same way.
Talk about it if that helps.
and have fun
yourself to grieve even if it was expected as in a lengthy illness. We are never really prepared for the death of a loved
Raise money to find
a cure for the disease that took your friend's life.
Find constructive ways to release your anger
Make a Scream Box (see page on making a scream box on home
page of Grief Speaks.com)
your pet comfort you or visit a friend who has a pet.
Do something the person who died liked to do.
Listen to music
Pour yourself into life, "Carpe
diem" Seize the day
Read books that help
Be prepared for 'grief bursts'
: when it hits you suddenly all over again, but not for as long, like if you hear his/her favorite song, see someone that
resembles your friend, smell their favorite cologne or perfume, etc.
to Do to Help Yourself After the Death of a Friend:
Keep a journal of your feelings. Read it over every couple of weeks or months to see how things have changed.
Let yourself blow off steam. Exercise, get physical. Hit a pillow, Make a scream box (see page),
play loud music and jump or dance, write a note to the person who died and crunch it up and stomp on it.
Rip up old newspapers or magazines. Hit a punching bag. Speak to a school counselor or nurse or
Inside balloons put slips of paper, each with a feeling on it that
you want to get rid of. Blow up balloons to the size of the intensity of the feeling.
Take 3 paper bags and write a list of your thoughts and feelings you are having on paper. Write on the 3 bags: Hold
onto these for awhile, hold on to these forever and crumple these up or trash. Cut each list apart and place word into
each bag with the correct title. Every few days add to each bad or change the items from bag to bag.
Get out in nature.
Share your thoughts with
a good listener. Call a hot-line if you don't have someone to listen. 2nd Floor is for kids 10-24 to call about anything:
1-888-222-2228. It is free and 24/7 and confidential.
Read a good book or one
about grief like When A Friend Dies by Marilyn Gootman
Get some extra help with
school work or hire a tutor. It is normal to fall behind a bit with school when grieving.
Call a friend or relative on the phone.
Draw 3 pictures: 1. What
my life was like before my friend died. 2. What my life is like now. 3. What I want my life to be like
Ask 3 people who have gone through hard times and whom you admire. Ask
them to tell you what helped them during hard times. Listen and compare their answers to things that may work for you.
Rent some funny movies. Make a favorite play list for your I-pod.
Plan to be with friends on a special date or anniversary dates or do something special that day to comfort yourself
or to help you remember.
Make a collage with a friend or alone. Get a bunch
of magazines, glue sticks and scissors and cut out pictures and words that remind you of your friend. Glue the words and pictures
to a poster board.
Make a photo montage of you and your friend.
Visit the family if you want to.
If your friend
has a Facebook page write on it. Write to the parents of your friend telling them what your friend meant. Many parents go
on each day to read all the posts.
If your loss was sudden, violent or
traumatic, recognize the following stress reactions and find someone to talk to if any of these things are happening to you:
startling at any noise or disturbance, repeated nightmares, excessive activity or a high degree of agitation that continues
over time, flashbacks, seeing the incident over and over, an inability to remember the event that happened, or a prolonged
or intense difficulty in concentration and in decision making.
time outs from grief. "Life doesn't cease to be funny when people die, any more than it ceases to be serious when people
laugh." George Bernard Shaw
Be kind to yourself. Look for inspirational
role models, quotes, people.
Play with an animal.
Remember that this grief journey is your journey and not like anyone else's journey. Take it slowly and be patient
Adapted from Facing
Change: Falling apart and coming together again in the teen years by Donna O'Toole
A Grieving Teen Has
the Right to...
Know the truth
about the death, the deceased and the circumstances
Have questions answered
Be heard with dignity and respect
Be silent and not tell you his or her grief emotions or thoughts
agree with your perceptions and conclusions
See the person who died and the
place of the death
Grieve any way she or he wants to without hurting self or
Feel all the feelings and to think all the thoughts of his or her own
Not to have to follow the "stages of grief" as outlined
in a high school health book
Grieve in one's own unique, individual way without
Be angry at death, at the person who died, at God, at self and at
Ignore people who are insensitive and spout cliches
Have his or her own theological and philosophical beliefs about life and death
Be involved in the decisions about the rituals related to the death
Not be taken advantage of in this vulnerable mourning condition and circumstances
Have irrational guilt about how he or she could have intervened to stop the death
(A Grieving Teen has the right to... by the Dougy Center)