Bereavement is an event, grief is an emotional response to the loss, and mourning is an active process we go through.
When a young person suffers a bereavement it can turn their world upside down. It may be a parent, a close friend or a beloved pet that has died. The death may have occurred in traumatic circumstances. It could have happened suddenly, for example, by accident, catastrophic illness or suicide. Everyone reacts very differently to a bereavement and they will process it in a unique way. People are very different in the way they grieve and young people may become confused and unable to cope with their own feelings.
Grief can include so many varied and, sometimes overwhelming and frightening feelings and emotions. These may be triggered at any time and cause the young person’s behaviour to change. They may feel intense anger which may cause them to lash out at people verbally or even physically. If the death was traumatic they may feel shock and numbness for quite a while afterwards. There may be an intense sadness or even depression which may make them feel very alone and isolated from everyone. They may feel very anxious which may have an impact on their school or college work, some young people may feel that they cannot cope with everyday life and they may withdraw and disengage. A young person may feel even more alone if their peers have not been through something similar and do not know what to say or how to support them. These feelings may arise at any time and be unpredictable and embarrassing.
It is important for the young person to have a support network around them. It is helpful for them to understand that whatever their reaction to the death, it is a normal response to loss. Mourning that loss is a process which will take as much time as they need to be able to cope with life again.
A young person will find their own way through their grief reaction, what works for one person and brings them comfort may not work for another,
There are coping strategies which young people may find useful, these can include the following:
- Writing a journal – This can be written in a paper journal which can be decorated by the young person, choosing a special pen to write with can be comforting. Feelings and thoughts may be typed in a phone or laptop, as long as there is a place for thoughts and feelings to be documented it is up to an individual’s choice
- Sometimes words are inadequate and feelings are best expressed in picture form. Some young people feel that they can express themselves more clearly though drawing and painting. Some people combine written journalling and pictures to tell their story
- Support Network – It is important for the young person to have a network of family and friends they can turn to when they feel they need to talk. It can be helpful if their tutors or teachers are aware they are grieving so that they can be offered practical and emotional support. The young person will need people around them who will acknowledge that they may behave differently at times and will be triggered and upset
- Some young people find it helpful to write how they feel in the form of a poem. Poetry can be very expressive and t can be as creative as the young person wishes.
- Memory Box – This can used to keep loved one’s items in. This can be photos, letters and keepsakes, anything that reminds the young person of their loved one. It can be added to or put aside and taken out and looked at when required
- Write a Letter – Writing a letter to a loved one can be a useful way of expressing feelings and dealing with any unfinished business. This can be written as if the loved is going to read it. It can be taken to a grave or put in a memory box
- Sharing Memories – Sharing memories with others who knew the loved one can be comforting. It can bring the loved one closer to heart and mind to hear anecdotes and snippets not previously heard
Sometimes a grieving young person will want to cope with their feelings in private. Others may be concerned and worried about them, but it may be enough to let the young person know that someone will be there to listen and support if they need it.
It can feel like a rejection if someone refuses our offers of help but it is helpful to realise that a young person will need to find their own ways of coping. Giving young people options will empower them to find their own path and ways to cope with their grief.
If you are concerned about the behaviour of a young person and feel they would benefit from counselling with the Dove Service, you can find more support HERE or you can contact us on 01782 683155 for additional support