Counseling Teens Dealing with Loss of a Loved One
Wichita State University
Counseling Teens Dealing with Loss of a Loved One
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult events a person may experience in his or her life. Losing a loved one at a young age can be even more traumatic and could tamper with adolescent’s stages of development. Adolescence is a developmental period in which youths experience great deals of change, especially as teenagers struggle with finding themselves. Personalities and values are being developed; if a loved one is lost, the growing up process can become stagnant as other emotions arise. Anger, depression, withdrawal, acting out, noncompliance, frustration, and confusion are all typical grief responses (Metzgar, 2002). The stages of grief that an adolescent goes through may be the same for adults. It is important to allow these teens to express their feelings for the loss of their loved ones and be heard by someone they trust. Adolescents also must receive help in developing coping skills when losses occur. It is important for the teen to not feel alone. Providing them with group counseling for grieving teens can give all of these things to help them get through such a traumatic event. Literature Review
Bereavement is to mourn or grieve a lost loved one. Many youth become bereaved due to the death of a family member or friend (Corr, Nabe, & Corr, 2008). In order to understand how grieving youth respond to the loss of a loved one, it is important for counselors and others working with youth to understand how bereavement impacts adolescent development and how adolescent development impacts bereavement. Adolescent development occurs in three phases: early adolescence, middle adolescence, and later adolescence. This was an idea introduced by Peter Blos in 1979. Early adolescence is considered to be approximately ages 10- 14, middle is 15- 17, and late is 18-22 (Muuss, 1996). These ages differ from case to case for all people and attaining the age of 22 years does not necessarily mark the end of adolescents. There are people that throughout their adult years remain indecisive about accepting responsibility. Bereaved adolescents face not only the uncertainty and confusion of their grief but also “ambivalence engendered by maturational phase conflicts” (Fleming & Adolph, 1986, p. 104). Adolescents can face grief in a multitude of ways. The way adolescents cope with tasks and conflicts may depend on their phase of adolescent development (Balk, 2011). No matter the stage of development there is often a pattern to the grieving process that most adolescents may experience.
Sciarra (2004) outlines the stages many adolescents may go through when dealing with grief. Sciarra’s stages of grief are shock and denial, anger and resentment, despair and depression, and finally, acceptance and incorporation into their world. These stages follow an order that is interchangeable depending on the person. For instance, according to Sciarra, after a loved one is lost, the adolescent may first feel shock and is overcome by the mourning. They don’t want to believe it so may believe they will see their loved one the next day, or later on. Anger and resentment follow. They may be mad at the lost one, a family member, or a higher power that they believe in for taking someone important in their life. Depression can result from self-blame or the sudden change of day to day life. When acceptance occurs, the adolescent can resume life by continuing with day to day activities and accepting their loss although many emotions may still arise. Sciarra’s stages of grief is one of many researchers who have looked into the topic of grief.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1969) is one of the major contributors to defining the stages of grief that someone endures when a loved one dies. Kubler-Ross’s stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and...
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