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.