By Amy Chmielinski MA LPC
As we mourn the loss of our friend Byron it’s important to remember the support and community we share as believers. Dealing with grief and loss is not easy, but together in the arms of Christ we can support, encourage, grieve and mourn together and also celebrate the new life and hope we have in Christ. As parents of teenagers dealing with loss (or even a teenager who is seeking to learn more about what they are experiencing) it important to look for help and comfort from others and especially from our loving God. I have asked my sister, a licensed counselor, to write a few words on what it means to deal with loss in our homes.
– Paul Easterday
Saying goodbye to a friend or loved one is always a difficult journey, no matter one’s age or stage of life. When this death is due to a longstanding illness, we often begin parts of this grieving process even before the person has passed away. It’s important, in this way, to keep in mind that grief is not something that only occurs after a loved one dies. As parents of teens who may be grieving, there are ways that we can provide help, comfort and support, both before and after the loss.
Create a safe grief environment.
Allow your teenager to grieve in the way that seems comfortable to them. Enforce that there is no “right or wrong” way to grieve someone and provide a safe environment for them to grieve.
Check in frequently about the loss or the pending loss. Some teens have a tendency to grieve inwardly and shut down. While there isn’t anything “wrong” with this, it is still important to at least touch base with them to inquire about how they are doing.
Give it time.
Give the teen as much time as they require to grieve. There is no time line for grief, for some it may take a few weeks to process and for others a few months or a year. So long as they are not heading into complicated grief or depression, allow them time to process through.
Maintain the same/similar routines. Make sure these are healthy and consistent and include discipline. Death can shake up the foundations of a teenager’s world, they need to know someone is in control.1
Encourage teens to reach out to others, whether that is through support groups, youth ministers, or pastors. It can be both healing and powerful to talk with others experiencing loss.
Know the signs to look for.
Be on the lookout for signs of complicated grief and/or depression. If your teenager has experienced other significant loss in the last year or so, they may be more vulnerable to having complicated grief reactions. If you notice any symptoms of depression, see your teens primary care doctor or a mental health therapist right away.
Signs of depression in teens include:
- Slipping grades
- Loss of interest in activities
- Increase/Decreased appetite
- Increase/Decreased sleep
- Isolating from friends/family
- Preoccupation with death, including wanting to join the one who passed away.
- Any statements of harm to self
As with any challenge in our lives our reliance upon others and upon God is critical. If you would like to talk more, please join us at 7 PM on Wednesday, November 20 at St. Luke–Ann Arbor as we do some grief work together. Youth, youth parents, and all others are welcome.
Above all, pray. Pray for peace and comfort for the family, pray for all those who are mourning, and pray for God’s gracious and loving words of hope and comfort would be spoken through us in difficult times such as this.
And cling to the same promises Byron did. Here are some favorites: