Though the number of teens dying has gone down according to the National Center for Health Statistics, an average of 16,375 teenagers 12 – 19 died from 1999 to 2008. That equals 49.5 deaths per 100,000 population. Motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accidental death in teens representing over a third of the deaths. Homicide is the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic black male teenagers accounting for two of every five deaths. Suicide, cancer and heart disease were the next highest leading cause of death to teenagers. I bring this up because the fact of the matter is that the probability of one of your teenage children losing a friend during their teen years is fairly high. With this knowledge perhaps you would like to know how to best help your teenager process the loss of one of their friends.
The most important thing that you can do for your teenager is to just allow them to have their feelings. They may not want to talk about it at all. That is fine – just be there silently with them if that is what they need.
Also realize just as is true for you when you lose someone in your life, there is no time limit in which one is going to finish the grieving process. When someone close to you dies, especially a person who is so young, the loss will never be fully accounted for. Over time the loss will become less of a factor in the day-to-day life of your teenager.
If your teenager asks for some help to process the loss, look for someone who has had some experience in dealing with this sort of trauma. Sensitivity is so important. This may be the first time your teenager realizes the finality of the loss and gets in touch with his/her own mortality which can be scary to admit.
I had a client come in to see me many years ago now for some help with her coach. The two of them weren’t getting along very well. The finals were coming around and she needed to play as the goalie for her team. The problem was that she didn’t want to play. So her mother brought her then almost 18 year old daughter in to see me. As I was doing the work to clear the issues regarding her coach, her mother passed a piece of paper to me with the message that she had lost four of her close friends over the past three years. It was in the next moments that I helped this young woman to heal the grief that she was carrying around with her. She mentioned at our follow-up meeting that the friend that she had lost who was on her team, was with her as she played her game.
So, I suggest that you let your teenager know that they can always hold the special bonds that were present during life, those special attributes that made them real close friends, close to their hearts for that is where they can always find that friend going forward.
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