A Mustang Without Brakes: Understanding Adolescent Grief

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

Traveling through "Magical Thinking" during the pre-school years, into the "Concrete Thinking" of the elementary school years, what comes next is adolescence. At this stage, they "think" that they are adults, but don't have the experience, perspective or ability to process like adults. Add to this the power of hormones, situations with education, love, friendships and responsibilities and you can see why it's such a complicated stage of life. Further, throw grief into the mix and you have the equivalent of a Mustang without brakes - unleashing limitless power with no built-in way to stop or control it.

Today on The Silva Lining, I was joined by a dear friend, Dr. Edward Costar. Dr. Costar is a counselor and educator with a PhD in Counseling Psychology who supervised student services and counseling in the Fall River Schools for close to thirty years. Presently, he teaches psychology at UMass Dartmouth with a specialty in Child Development, Abnormal Psychology and Counseling. 

We discussed many aspects of adolescent grief, starting with the developmental stages of grief in early childhood and leading up to adolescence. At the foundation of all the concepts and theories is the knowledge that every person, every child is completely unique in how they process and are affected by grief, influenced by their cognition, social behavior, personality and type of loss. 

Great advice for parents, friends and support systems of a grieving child or adolescent:

* Try not to judge their behavior as being a testament to their level of love for the deceased or as anything abnormal. Keep an open mind. Not often will they be able to explain their actions or understanding to you.

* Listen. When they reach out, be there. Let them talk. 

* Assure them. Be honest if you need to - you won't know how to fix the anguish the are in, make sense of why it's happening or have the perfect things to say. It's okay to admit that and make promises that you can keep; that they will be alright, that they are loved and you will be there for them whenever they need you.

The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor:

St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at www.stanthonyofpaduafcu.com