Brianne Overton tells Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference that teens really don’t have a voice when it comes to grief. Since they’re in between children and adults, many adults think they’ll grieve similarly to their more mature peers, but that isn’t the case. Teens are in a demographic of their own and they do grieve differently. Plus, in the Digital Era, more and more teens look online for support and have developed their own methods (which is why the phrase “funeral selfie” is a reality).

Adults might think teens aren’t grieving because they may not be outwardly emotional. Teenagers aren’t forgotten grievers, they do grieve, and they do have a voice says Overton. Dr. Horsley, who works with parents of teens who “should” be grieving, says that parents are often very concerned because their teen doesn’t grieve in front of them. Overton says some teens feel like they need to protect adults, or if it’s never been modeled for them how to grieve, they may not be comfortable expressing their grief or even know how.

What Can Adults Do?

Modeling grief is the best thing an adult can do, but it’s tougher said than done. Exposing teens to an array of adults, including experts in the grieving field, can be a fantastic way to show them alternative grieving methods. Grief looks differently for everyone, and teens should know it doesn’t have to look a certain way. Art therapy, sports, writing, and more active ways of handling grief often speak closely to teens.

Do sports with teens, urges Overton. If a teen is already on a sports team, encourage them to keep participating so they can help physically get out some emotions. Most importantly, be there and be open to communicating with teens if and when they choose.

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Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

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