A Literature Review of Adolescent Health and Wellbeing: Grief and Loss Clare Vella
Throughout academic literature, the topic ‘Grief and Loss’ is commonly examined with ‘Grief’ being the result of a type of ‘Loss.’ According to the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, ‘grief’ is “our response to loss. It is the normal, natural and inevitable response to loss, and it can affect every part of our life, including our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, feelings, physical health and our relationships with others.” (ACGB, 2013) Judith Murray similarly highlighted that ‘grieving is a normal process,’ which is characterised by healing “that allows a person to progress from a state of significant disorganisation at the realisation of the loss of the previous life situation, to a position to being able to reinvest in life.” (Murray, pg. 98) However the ‘process of healing’ is frequently emphasised across Grief and Loss literature as a uniquely personal experience, suggesting that “everyone grieves in their own way. Your grief is unique to you, and as long as you are not causing harm to yourself or those around you, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to grieve.” (ACGB, 2013). Whilst ‘bereavement’ is the type of loss that will take the focus of this literature review, ‘loss’ in itself is characterised by varying causes. For example the National Association for Loss and Grief (Vic) outlines “as well as bereavement, loss comes in many forms including relationship breakdown, unemployment, chronic illness, homelessness, incarceration, ageing or a loss that results from a traumatic event.” (nalagvic, 2013) Whilst academic literature routinely emphasises that Grief is different for each and every individual, various specialists however specifically categorise grief – bereavement – according to stages of developmental growth. Katherine Walsh-Burke outlined that adolescence is often viewed as a time of “intense change in biological, psychological, and social development,” (Walsh-Burke, pg. 36) and a period where teenagers are especially conscious of wanting to ‘fit in’ with their peers. Walsh-Burke continued by discussing that adolescents may view a “death in the family as making them appear different from their peers,” as well as placing pressure on their own personal development and interests, academic abilities, friendships, intimate relationships, etc. Furthermore, she suggested that adolescents “may also be acutely aware of the discomfort others evidence in talking about death and modulate their reactions accordingly. All of these internal and external factors can lead teens to feel alienated or isolated from those who don’t seem to understand.” (Walsh-Burke, pg. 36) In contrast younger children’s possible reactions to death; Canberra’s Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network suggests that adolescents “understand more fully that their lives will be different and that their opportunities and security may be affected, especially by the death of a parent.” (ANU, 2013) Prior to examining best practice for managing adolescent Grief & Loss within a school context, there exists a breadth of opinions about Grief and Loss within the broader community context. Katherine Walsh-Burke suggested that professionals involved in a ‘helping field,’ such as education, need to be aware of the complexities of grief and loss and “be prepared to encounter loss and the grief reactions loss engenders.” (Walsh-Burke, 2006, pg. 2) Examples of pertinent issues surrounding grief and loss were raised by SBS ‘Insight’ topic ‘Good Grief’ (Insight, 2012). An initial question posed by host Jennie Brockie; ‘Is there such thing as a normal amount of time for grief?’ was critiqued by a guest Psychologist who emphasised that ongoing and persistent pain beyond 12 months is of crucial concern. A additional Psychologist challenged the ‘12 month finite period’ for grief, as he believed such a time frame ‘runs a risk’ for those...
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