Author Jenny Wheeler talks about losing her dad when she was a teenager. She wrote Weird is Normal When Teenagers Grieve to help other teenagers struggling with their own losses. She encourages teens and anyone who’s experienced a loss to connect with the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), which hosts an annual conference. Wheeler was a speaker at the 2011 event and has found that connecting with others, especially when you’re a teen, can be a great tool for healing. Empathy is something everyone needs, but as a teen it can be tough to reach out.
She lost her dad to cancer when she was 14. She wrote her book at 16 years old, and used it to reach out to other teens. There are many teens who have experienced a loss, and everyone grieves in different ways. For Wheeler, she found that people expected her to grieve in a certain way. For example, everyone expected her to be sad on her dad’s birthday—but it was when his beloved microwave died that she fell apart. If grieving takes longer than it “should” or you don’t think you feel as sad as you “should,” know that’ it’s all normal.
Tough Teen Grief
Teens can get lost in the shuffle of grief, explains Wheeler. It’s easy to focus on the other adults, and kids can often be overlooked. Plus, many people find it difficult to talk to teens. That can make them avoid the situation altogether. It’s not helpful to the teen, but it’s understandable. Teens can reach out and find their own methods of healing. For Wheeler, music was a great help.
There are also online communities today which, with the approval of parents, can be a great source of support. Know that you’re not alone.