Grief–we all feel it at some point in our lives, but for some, it’s experienced far too early on. The first experience of grief can be through the loss of a friendship or the death of a pet or a grandparent. As a trauma treatment center for teens, we know that grief is a natural response to loss, most frequently having to deal with the death of a loved one–but this natural response can run out of control. It can fill an individual with unrelenting sadness and hopelessness, essentially making daily life a struggle. Untreated, this type of grief can ruin a person’s life–which is why it is so critical to understand what is normal and what is not when it comes to grief.
What can cause grief?
When you think of grief, what comes to mind? For most people, they think of losing a loved one–this is the most frequent cause of grief. There are other causes, though. Grief can arise when an individual or a loved one of the individual is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Even the loss of a relationship or friendship can trigger strong feelings of grief.
Even subtle losses in life can trigger a sense of grief. For example, a young adult may feel grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, or even experiencing a career change. Whatever their loss, that grief is a personal thing. If that person, animal, relationship, or circumstance they lost was significant to them, it is normal to grieve that loss. There is no reason to feel ashamed of those feelings of grief. Sometimes people experiencing what they consider to be “smaller” losses may feel like they do not have the same right to grieve as people who have suffered larger tragedies. But the reality is that whatever your loss, you are allowed to have your feelings.
For adolescents, grief can be much different than in adults. Adults have had the time and experience to build up defenses and coping methods for grief–teenagers haven’t. In our trauma treatment center for teens, we know this can make the trauma of grief much more potent and unstable, which is why we treat it.
Dealing with Grief
Children and teens may experience grief differently than adults. They may be crying one moment, then enjoying an activity the next. But just as grief affects adults in different ways, each young person will have their own way of processing their grief. They may use distractions to keep from feeling overwhelmed, or they may experience episodes of depression, anxiety, or even outbursts of anger.
When it comes to processing feelings of grief, encourage your teen to express their feelings. Emotions may feel tangled or confused, but give your daughter the space she needs to express whatever emotions may come up. Remind her that there is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss. She may have questions, so do your best to answer her questions honestly and clearly. You may not have all the answers, and that is OK. What matters the most is that your daughter knows that you are there for her during this difficult time.
It can also be helpful to participate in the rituals that can provide comfort or closure. In the circumstance of a death, memorial services, funerals, or other traditions can help your daughter by being in the presence of other people who knew their loved one. These traditions can be a way to honor the person that they have lost.
Grief can feel very lonely, even if they have loved ones around. Sharing their sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. A support group can be a beneficial tool to support your teen in their grief. The pain of grief can cause them to want to withdraw from others and isolate. But having the face-to-face support of other people is vital to healing from loss.
It is also important to remind your daughter that dealing with grief will take time. Healing happens gradually and it cannot be forced or hurried. There is no “normal” timeline for healing from grief. For some people, they may feel better after a few weeks or months. For others, it may take years to begin to process that grief. Whatever she is experiencing with grief, help your daughter be patient with herself and the process.
The difference between normal and harmful grief
As said before, grief is a normal, human response to loss. We feel grief when we’ve lost opportunities, relationships, friendships, and loved ones. It’s when that grief runs free with an uncontrollable force that it becomes an issue.
Grief is something that is difficult to understand until you experience it. You can describe grief to someone, but experiencing it first hand is something completely different. This is why grief can be so challenging, and potentially traumatizing, for young adults. These big emotions can be devastating if they are not equipped with the proper coping methods. Grief can easily go from normal to extremely destructive. Teens who are experiencing harmful grief may experience symptoms such as:
- Sleep disturbance: Teens who are experiencing harmful grief may experience sleep disturbances. This can manifest as lack of sleep or insomnia. Or excessive sleep, using sleep to avoid dealing with the pain of their emotions.
- Anger: Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, they may feel angry and resentful. If they lost a loved one, they may be angry with themself, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning them. They may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to them.
- Guilt: They may feel responsible somehow, or guilty about whatever emotions they are feeling in their grief or what they think they should have or should not have done or said.
- Fear: A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. They may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. They may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about their own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities they now face alone.
- Isolation: Teens experiencing grief may begin to isolate themselves from family or friends. It could be because they don’t believe that anyone else can understand what they are going through. It could be because their peers feel awkward around them because they don’t know how to talk about their loss. It could also be that the feelings of grief feel too overwhelming and they feel that talking to other people about it is too painful.
There may also be physical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or gain, and aches and pains. When the symptoms of their grief begin to get in the way of daily life and throw an individual into a deep, deep depression, help should be sought out.
If you believe your daughter is struggling with grief, trauma, or any other mental health issue, it’s critical to seek out help as soon as possible. Early intervention and treatment is the key to success in these cases–don’t wait until it’s too late.
How a Trauma Treatment Center Can Help
Young women who are dealing with harmful grief may benefit from a residential treatment program that specializes in dealing with trauma. A residential treatment center provides a unique combination of therapeutic techniques stemming from both traditional and holistic mental health treatments that are gender and age-specific. Here they will work with clinical professionals who can help them build the coping mechanisms they need to move through their grief and process it in a healthy way.
As one of the leading trauma treatment programs for girls, programming is designed around a relationship-based approach to healing from trauma. While your daughter is attending Solstice East she will build relationships with peers and staff members. We have found that these relationships are essential to helping your daughter heal from her trauma and build a strong and empowered identity.
Solstice East supports a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change, and growth is recognized and embraced. Our approach employs the guidance of The Hero’s Journey and its themes, providing a foundation for our students to advance victoriously and grow closer to internal harmony. Solstice East students embark on a therapeutic journey that teaches inner growth and understanding and fosters positive relationships. Our groundbreaking approach allows our students to heal while compiling skills and practices to best serve them throughout their life journey.
Solstice East for Your Daughter
Solstice East is a trauma treatment center for teens–specifically for girls, ages 14 to 18. Our girls are often grappling with depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, ADHD, and other emotional or behavioral problems when they come to us. In our trauma treatment center for teens, we strive to help students develop healthy habits and lead themselves back onto a path of success and happiness.
For more information about how our trauma treatment center for teens at Solstice East can help your daughter, please contact us at 828-484-9946.