Grief and loss are a part of every person’s life. At some point, we will lose a pet, or a friend, or a loved one. And while it is natural and normal, that does not make it any easier when it happens.
Grief is especially challenging for young people. They are experiencing loss for the first time, and with no previous experience of dealing with it, they may not know what to do. The sadness can feel overwhelming and they fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Common Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
While each person deals with grief differently, there are some common coping mechanisms that present themselves during loss. Unhealthy coping mechanisms may include:
- Denial- refusing to acknowledge their loss or grief.
- Risk-taking behavior- this could include acting without thought of consequences and acting out through unhealthy relationships.
- Substance abuse- turning to alcohol or drugs to numb their feelings.
- Over or under eating- using food as a tool to numb or distract.
- Obsessing/Controlling- since they could not control their loss, they may seek to control what they can.
There can be many factors, including low self-esteem, or a history of untreated anxiety and depression that can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. There may be a sense of emptiness or lack of safety that makes their loss feel intolerable and this inability to tolerate the emotions leads to those unhealthy behaviors.
There is no “right” way to deal with loss. Part of dealing with grief is understanding that it affects different people in different ways. Young people dealing with grief need to understand that the feelings they’re experiencing are okay and that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to loss. It might take one person a few weeks to start to feel lighter, while others require much more time. It is important to give themselves some patience and grace as they move through their stages of grief. Acknowledging their pain and seeking out help can aid them to begin to deal with their loss. There may be good days and hard days, but it is all a part of processing their emotions. Grief counseling can also be an effective tool for working through their pain. An experienced therapist can help them work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to their grieving.
Solstice East Can Help
The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.
The process of internal growth and change is facilitated by a succession of interventions aimed at helping our girls become young women of character. The process of developing and clarifying a positive value system, and learning to allow these values to drive their choices and behavior is a powerful process of growth. It is this process that drives internal growth, and once solidified, remains constant and growing long after graduation and into adulthood. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.