The UK organisation Child Bereavement UK reports that every year in the UK over 20,000 children and young people under the age of 18 experience the death of a parent and that around 6% of schoolchildren are grieving the death of a close friend.
Understanding death and grief
You as a young person have a greater understanding of death, the long term implications of losing someone close and are more keenly aware of the emotional aspects than younger children.
As a teenager, it is not unusual for any reactions to death to be extremely intense. It is natural to reflect on the injustice of the death asking why the person who has died had to die. A young mourner is often unable to manage the strong emotions that bereavement entails and can therefore present as being extremely angry and even end up in physical fights. Some bereaved young people can revert to childish behaviour in order to relocate some security and normality in their lives where as others might try to “grow up too fast” and see themselves as taking on adult roles.
It is essential to remember that you, as a young person, should not be burdened with adult roles. We want to encourage bereaved teenagers to share how they are feeling and what frightens them; in school we have the services of a Counsellor and also the Pastoral Team (Form Tutor, Head of Year and VP).
Coping with feelings
It is not uncommon for young people to try and avert their emotions or bottle them up by avoiding the family or by assuming the role of an adult. If this happens, we want to encourage you to open up and communicate your feelings. Sometimes a bereaved young person may become involved in risky behaviours in an attempt to manage their grief and its associated emotions.
You may notice yourself becoming quieter, or more easily tearful or angry in everyday situations. You may experience physical symptoms, for example a sore tummy. These are all natural and common reactions following a death of someone close.
Sadly, death is natural: all living things die, accidents happen, and illness and old age are all part of the life cycle of people and animals. You may feel hurt or angry that the person has gone, or may feel it happened because of something you said or did (or even did not do!). We want to reassure you that you are not to blame.
As part of the grieving process, we all move in and out of grief – sad and tearful one moment, and maybe cheery the next. It is important to recognise this is normal. The Hope Again website (part of Cruse Bereavement Care) is dedicated to helping young people, like you, cope following loss and you may wish to take a look at the stories of other young people who have had to cope with loss in their lives. https://www.hopeagain.org.uk/hope-again-about-us
If you are experiencing the impact of bereavement it may be helpful to discuss this with a specialist, your GP or perhaps our school counsellor. Please speak to Mrs Allen, your Head of Year or your Form Tutor to make a referral to the Counsellor.