John Rampton discusses adolescent grief with Dr. Ken Doka during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. “Of course, adolescents have different issues with grief,” says Dr. Doka. Adolescents, by nature, are people in transition. It’s already a trying time for young adults and teens without putting the loss of a loved one, or even someone a person knows in passing, into the mix. The Hospice Foundation of America recently showcased an event on adolescent grief, and it’s starting to get more attention as specialists focus on the best ways to help this demographic with their healing.

Being in transition means that often adolescents’ grief isn’t noticed or recognized by those around them. They’re experts at hiding their grief because they don’t want to seem needy or different. At this age, it’s all about showing off independence. This means adolescents will grieve on their own, whereas a younger child will try to cuddle or be transparent with their feelings. Plus, middle schools are more fragmented so kids don’t have the same teacher all day—which leads to more changes.

A Lonely Period

As a parent, Rampton asks Dr. Doka how moms and dads can recognize signs of a grieving teen. Dr. Doka suggests that if there’s a loss you know about, be sensitive. Allow them to talk, or not, on their schedule. Look for obvious signs, like changes in behavior or grades. These are signs of grief. When asked about social media’s role in grief, Dr. Doka says it plays a big role. This age is made up of digital natives.

Parents and counselors should know what adolescents are doing on the internet, including what kind of support they might be getting. How much monitoring you should do depends on each adolescent, and it’s something parents need to rely on instincts to get right.

Ken Doka

Dr. Kenneth J. Doka is a Professor of Gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. A prolific author, Dr. Doka’s books include Counseling Individuals with Life-Threatening Illness; Living with Grief: Children and Adolescents, Living with Grief: Before and After Death, Death, Dying and Bereavement: Major Themes in Health and Social Welfare (a 4 Volume edited work), Pain Management at the End-of-Life: Bridging the Gap between Knowledge and Practice, Living with Grief: Ethical Dilemmas at the End of Life, Living with Grief: Alzheimer’s Disease, Living with Grief: Coping with Public Tragedy; Men Don’t Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief; Living with Grief: Loss in Later Life, Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow: Living with Life Threatening Illness; Children Mourning, Mourning Children; Death and Spirituality; Living with Grief: After Sudden Loss; Living with Grief: When Illness is Prolonged; Living with Grief: Who We Are, How We Grieve; Living with Grief: At Work, School and Worship; Living with Grief: Children, Adolescents and Loss; Caregiving and Loss: Family Needs, Professional Responses; AIDS, Fear and Society; Aging and Developmental Disabilities; and Disenfranchised Grief: New Directions, Challenges, and Strategies for Practice. In addition to these books, he has published over 100 articles and book chapters. Dr. Doka is editor of both Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying and Journeys: A Newsletter for the Bereaved. Dr. Doka was elected President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling in 1993. In 1995, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Work Group on Dying, Death and Bereavement and served as chair from 1997-1999. The Association for Death Education and Counseling presented him with an Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Death Education in 1998. In 2000 Scott and White presented him an award for Outstanding Contributions to Thanatology and Hospice. His Alma Mater Concordia College presented him with their first Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2006, Dr. Doka was grandfathered in as a Mental Health Counselor under NY State’s first licensure of counselors. Dr. Doka has keynoted conferences throughout North America as well as Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. He participates in the annual Hospice Foundation of America Teleconference and has appeared on CNN and Nightline. In addition he has served as a consultant to medical, nursing, funeral service and hospice organizations as well as businesses and educational and social service agencies. Dr. Doka is an ordained Lutheran minister. Dr. Doka appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart“ to discuss “Dealing with Grief and Loss.” To hear Dr. Doka being interviewed on this show by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link:

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