Updated: Feb 7
When someone under the age of 17 has a loved one die, they usually become the neglected and overlooked griever. Youth face some unique challenges in the grief journey.
Emotions during grief are confusing, overwhelming and so intense. To understand this journey does not take the pain away, but normalizes the complicated feelings. Like most of us at any age, they do not have the vocabulary or experience or are equipped with the tools and coping skills to manage such pain.
Walking someone through this grief journey is WALKING ALONGSIDE and LISTENING to them. We earn the right to offer and teach them healthy ways to express their complicated emotions and needs.
Children grieve in the future when moments such as graduations, birthdays or just wanting to ask Dad how he asked out a girl for the first time occur. These moments are as painful as the day their loved one died. A young lady’s wedding day may be the happiest day of her life and also the saddest because her father is not there to walk her down the aisle. We call these times, when sad and happy collide, “SAPPY” moments.
A broken heart does adjust and grow in strength. The realization of God’s plan and purpose in their lives paves the path to the future. Nothing can separate us from the love of God not even death.
Shock You cannot believe that someone you love has died. You are not even sure what that means. It is an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach like riding a crazy roller coaster.
Denial You do not want to hear it. You scream inside your head, “Do not say the words!” A numbness engulfs your heart as you close your eyes and resist the spoken words. You stand back and observe all of the chaos around you.
Anger When things are not in your control, it is common to get angry. Sickness, accidents and death are out of your control, therefore it is normal to get angry. Sometimes you may get angry with God, the person that told you the news, the loved one for leaving you, the doctor, someone you thought would be there for you, or a friend that said the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Guilt Sometimes you may feel guilty when you revisit words and actions experienced with your loved one and to desire a second chance to do over those moments. You may wonder if the death was your fault. After a long sickness or a complicated relationship, you may feel guilt for feeling relief.
Afraid Once you have experienced a really horrible event, you may feel afraid and worry that something else bad will happen. You may become fearful that something may happen to someone else you love, which causes separation anxiety. You may long to know where everyone is at all times.
Confused You are not sure what you are feeling, thinking, believing or even wanting. There are so many people around, funeral plans, and words spoken that you have never heard before (like cremation). It is common to have a flood of questions and thoughts racing around in your mind. Sadness Sadness You have never felt such a deep dark sadness before, which is referred to as depression. You want to hide and cry. You crave to see your loved one one more time, hear their voice and touch them. All Alone You feel so lonely, so different and not understood. People may say they know how you feel, but they really do not. Therefore, you feel even more alone. Tired You may feel exhausted and fatigued. Sometimes it is difficult to go to school, concentrate, retain information for tests or do things you once thought were fun. You may want to sleep all the time, but you aren’t able to sleep. Sometimes your stomach hurts and you feel sick. You may feel you are walking around wearing a backpack full of heavy rocks that weigh you down. Changes So many things have changed since your loved one is no longer present. There are new routines for everyone. You wonder who will take care of you, fix your lunch, or play with you. New home, new school, new town, new caregiver, new chores, new jobs or new family members may be some of the many changes that you face. Sappy Sappy moments are when you feel happy and sad at the same time. You are so excited and happy about your home-run but sad because of the absence of your sibling, mom or dad to celebrate with you. Your wedding day is the happiest day of your life, but the saddest because your dad is not there to walk you down the aisle. Faith Sometimes you may feel like your childhood vanished and adulthood took over. You desperately want to ask God, “Why?” Nothing makes sense, so it is normal to question your view of life and God. God promises to be with you, never leave you alone, and to walk alongside you on this painful journey. God loves you. You are valuable and important to Him. God will give you the strength and comfort you need. God has a plan for your life. He has given you gifts and talents to face your future. You will forever miss your loved one and grieve their presence, but you will continue to walk the journey of life with a purpose.