By Tess Thompson
Life is a continuous struggle and the earlier it is realized that one has to meet its challenges, the better it is for everyone. Coming to terms with the changes that death of a special person may bring about, is one such struggle that can become difficult to handle by many individuals. Such acceptance and management becomes even more difficult for adolescents, who are already undergoing a state of emotional turmoil. Unable to understand the import of life events in their correct perspective, there is a great possibility of the young mind interpreting a situation with trumped up logic. Some general signs that death or a personal loss may bring about in adolescents include:
─ A long period of sadness and sorrow during which interest in daily activities is lost.
─ Refusal to attend school or a drop in grades.
─ Repetitive statements of wanting to join the dead.
─ Withdrawal from friends, hyper-activity or keeping too busy.
Considering that today’s teens are extremely stressed out and that some teens may view the entire situation to be extremely negatively, it is possible that adolescents can slowly fall into a state of clinical depression due to grief. Extreme grief can have serious consequences and in many instances teens are known to resort to substance abuse, casual and indiscriminate sexual behavior, anti-social and criminal activities or suicide. Many private and community associations have come forward by offering grief counseling in schools. They also offer these services to communities that are socially more vulnerable.
Grief counselors often use the strategy of patient listening and subtle suggestions on individual basis. Group activities have also been found to be effective. Teens are given an opportunity to openly express their feelings amongst people in similar situations with whom they can identify with. Group activities like art therapy and writing are frequently used to reach out to the teenager to help give expression to emotions. This also gives an insight into the inner turmoil that helps in a proper assessment of the emotional distress that the teenager may be passing through.
The basic goals of group activities are:
─ To provide a therapeutic environmental condition that enables adolescents to go through the necessary stages of mourning in a healthy manner. This minimizes the negative impact and promotes emotional wellness.
─ Help youngsters to perceive grief as a normal human reaction to death. Adolescents are very concerned with being seen as normal. The group format induces a sense of positive identity in the grieving adolescent as groups give mutual aid and a means for re-entering the mainstream.
─ Create an atmosphere of compassion and support
─ Remove any sense of guilt that may be compelling the child to blame himself or herself for the loss.
─ Regain control over their lives and get on with their normal routine activities.
Sessions that help teens to view the loss in the larger context of life as a continuous struggle provide a tool for teens to move forward in life instead of stagnation that grief is liable to result in.
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