Teen dealing with death

by Melinda Ward

I have a 14 year old daughter and on May 2, 2010 she lost a friend that was very dear to her. Casey was her best friend and her first love. They knew one another their whole life. He was in a tragic car accident which he was ejected and well passed away at the hospital. I am a single mother of 3 and well, I have never lost anyone close to me ever and I'm at a loss. I look in her eyes and see so much pain. Courtney has changed over the past 2 months and she is now kinda scaring me. She is a excellent athlete, strong willed child that never turned from a challenge but now I see a child broken, hurt, in pain, heartbroken. I do not know what to do. She cries daily going from remembering him to missing him to asking why, to wanting to just be with him...I just don't know. What do I do?

Ben's Answer:

A very sad story. The fact is that ordinarily kids cope with grief better than most adults, but only if they are in a supportive environment with healthy models for dealing with grief. All of what your daughter is experiencing is a normal part of the grief process. You can't put a time limit or structure around grieving. All emotions have to be acceptable -- whether it's anger, sadness, hopelessness, guilt.

It's very important for her to get the clear message from you that you respect her and the feelings she is experiencing, and these feelings do not mean she is crazy, depressed or psychologically messed up in any way. She needs to be allowed to think about him, talk about him, visit his grave if she wants, look at photos of him and so on. It's very important that she have someone who can be present with her in her grief - not judging her or trying to talk her out of her feelings. That person could be you, or another trusted adult, or a therapist, or she could get that kind of support in a bereavement group of other teens if such a service exists in your area.

Be sure that you know the difference between her wishing she could be with her friend and an actual self-destructive desire or plan to kill herself. This is a very important question and you should ask it directly and request that she promise you she will never try to take her own life. Never be afraid to ask that question directly. Don't ever just assume that a child will not ever try to do something like that. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teens today...

But the feeling of wishing you were dead, or wanting to be with your lost friend is not unusual and is often part of the pain of losing a friend.

I cannot recommend highly enough, that you try using EFT (Meridian Tapping) with her as a means of very quickly and effectively reducing her feelings of heartbreak and grief. I've used this method for many of my own clients in their grief and it can shorten the length of grieving and eliminate the most painful parts of the process. It does not make you forget the person or the feelings, but can make it bearable so that you can move on and feel positive feelings again.

You can find information about Meridian Tapping on this website. It is a self-help method that you can do on your own or with a guide or therapist (you can learn it and practice it with your daughter). I've never found anything more effective for healing trauma.

Wishing you and your daughter the best,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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