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Teenagers and Grief

Recently, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in our city requested twenty grief bags for their clients and staff. The representative that contacted me explained that several staff members as well as several clients had recent deaths in their families, and she thought that it would be nice to give them a Lisa’s Legacy grief bag. She asked for our bags for children, pre-teens, teens and adults. She suggested that five bags for each age group would be great.

As Lisa’s Legacy has grown over the past years, we have expanded to add bags for children and pre-teens, but we had not yet created bags for teens. So I contacted our board, friends, family and a friend from Erin’s House for Grieving Children. With their advice and suggestions, we were able to put together a bag for teenagers.

The bag for teens includes a book entitled “Healing the Grieving Heart for teens: 100 Practical Ideas” by Dr. Alan Wolfeldt. Dr. Wolfeldt is a leading expert on grief headquartered in Colorado. The bag also includes items that we felt would be used by teenagers for comfort, anxiety relief and snacking.

There is a wide range of abilities, cognition, experiences and maturity in the teen years. Throw in the physical changes that are taking place and this age group is a complex demographic. A thirteen year old views deaths vastly different than an eighteen or nineteen year old. So a lot of thought and rationale have gone into the contents of the bags to try to meet the needs of this age group.

The one thing that I can’t stress enough is to draw a teen out to express their feelings, emotions and worries surrounding the death. Often teen are reticent to share their emotions verbally---especially with adults. They’re striving so hard to be grown up. But a death can knock any person off their feet. Listening first. Possibly offering suggestions and advice if the teen would be open to it. Some discussion and talk can wait. Just be there for a teen.

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