The Impact of Traumatic Death in the Life of an Adolescent

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The Impact of Traumatic Death in the Life of an Adolescent
Dawn Schroeder
Liberty University
Human Growth and Development
502
Dr. Jaesook Gho
February 18, 2013

Abstract
The author presents the results from reviewing empirical research which studied the effects of traumatic death on the development of an adolescent. The studies included children and adolescents which had been impacted by traumatic events. While traumatic death can affect the development of an adolescent, most adolescents will process through the normal bereavement stages and carry on with life. On the other end of the spectrum, some adolescents will experience abnormal grieving which can cause complications such as childhood traumatic grief disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, which in turn can effect an adolescent’s development, especially since the brain is still in the developing stages. This study explores the negative choices an adolescent may choose to numb the pain, such as alcohol, drugs, or risky behaviors which can also having troubling consequences for the developing adolescent. As well as reporting the risks involved as the adolescent processes life after a traumatic death, this paper also addresses early intervention and the role of the caregivers.

The Impact of Traumatic Death in the Life of an Adolescent
The author’s town recently experienced a tragic accident, which left two teenage girls for dead, and a few weeks later, their close friend took his life by suicide. Needless to say, the lives of many peers have been thrown into major upheaval. One adolescent in particular, known to be friendly, loving, and honorable, is now of deep concern to his parents and close loved ones. Since the death of his girlfriend and two close friends, he has become an adolescent who bursts into anger, calling his mother names while using profanity, he sleeps little, no longer eats at the family dinner table, and avoids any family members or places which bring back memories of his dead girlfriend. Adolescence is a difficult time for a child because of the physical changes to the body, hormonal changes, and the need for independence. The changes in the life of a developing child can be a very awkward time, causing much turmoil and confusion in day to day life; therefore, adding a death to this course can greatly affect the future of an adolescent. Grief, in and of itself, is a dreadful experience for any adolescent to succumb. The added impact of a traumatic death, such as described above, can impede the normal bereavement process, which in turn can affect the adolescent’s normal developmental process, thus may warrant the necessity for intervention. Normal Bereavement Process

The normal bereavement process is a theory of stages one travels through on the journey from the pain of grief, to the healing and acceptance of the loss. Bowlby (1961) and Parkes (1972) were the first to present a four stage theory. The stages include shock-numbness, yearning-searching, disorganization-despair, and reorganization. Ku¨bler-Ross (1969) modified this four stage theory to a five stage theory which is still widely accepted by medical schools, physicians, therapists, and has been used for a broad diversity of losses. The five stages of grief presented by the Kübler-Ross (1969) model include: denial-dissociation-isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although these five stages of grief are generally acknowledged, there have been several disagreements with the stages; hence, others have fashioned diversities branching from these stages. While there is no set pattern as to how a person should process through the grief stages, the ultimate end is for the person to accept the loss and move in the direction of healing. The normal time frame a person processes the stages, with the predictability of moving back and forth amongst them, on average is around six months. An empirical examination of the stage theory of...
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