The loss of a sibling or a parent, even a close friend or someone else in your life when you are young, can be overwhelming and can bring forth a variety of powerful emotions. In cases where the cause of death is suicide or was very unexpected, the shock of their passing may exacerbate these feelings even further.
As a younger person, you may be trying to support the other grieving members of your family and friends yet at the same time still trying to cope with your own emotions. It is usual that many people do not experience such loss until later, therefore, this bereavement may leave you feeling confused or merely frightened.
While all of this is going on you may well have the added pressure of school or college, potentially even exams or intense studying and this can make the situation much more overwhelming, adding the worry of failure or falling behind to the mix.
The main thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many young people have been through the loss and devastation you are feeling, and although each person’s feelings are personal to them, there are shared experiences and ways of coping which may help.
Some of the feelings you may experience, and that other young people have talked about experiencing are:
Feeling as if you are the only person that feels the way you do.
Feeling numb – cannot communicate how you are feeling.
The inability to weep or cry – this can be opposite and you may be unable to stop crying or overly emotional over the smallest of issues.
Feeling responsible – thinking you could have done more to help or you need to try somehow to fill in the void in the family.
Anger – with yourself, your friends and family or even with other people you come into contact with such as teachers, and your frustration at why they don’t or can’t understand how you are feeling. You may even feel angry with the deceased, wondering how they could leave you.
Finding it hard to talk – it may feel as though they have no idea how much pain you are in and what you are going through.
Panic and agitation – you may be unable concentrate, to stay focused, or even to sleep or eat.
How Do You Cope With Your Grief
It’s crucial to recognize that coming to terms with the passing of someone close can take a long time, and will occur gradually. It is imperative you take care of your own mental and physical health while going through this process. Part of this is ensuring you eat regularly and try to get enough sleep. If you are feeling unwell or that you are unable to cope, speak to someone you trust. This doesn’t have to be your GP but could be a friend, your school or college nurse, or a friend or member of the family.
Where a loved one has taken their own life, it’s crucial to remember that the decision they made was theirs alone and nothing you could have prevented. It is likely they were feeling mentally unwell before their suicide and may have been acting differently towards those around them. They may have become distant or have removed themselves socially in an attempt to deal with their feelings. In this case, it may help you to understand more about their mental illness; this will help you in understanding their actions.
It’s essential for you to avoid the urge to shut yourself away. Continue to see your friends, carry on with the hobbies you enjoy and perhaps even take up something new, a sport or pastime. Many young people have reported that this has helped them at times where they felt at their lowest.
You may wish to go back to school, college or work as soon as you can, or you may feel that you want to take some time off. There’s no right or wrong answer here and you must do what feels right for you. What is important though, is to let your school, college or place of work know what has happened, so that the staff there are in a position to support you. Your colleagues will have access to information such as Employers Guide to Bereavement Leave, and they will be in a better place to understand your requirements.
If the loss is a member of your family, you may not want to talk to your parents or other members of the family through concern that you may upset them further. You must remember however that your feeling and concerns are just as valid and it is essential you share them. Talking to each other may well help you all to find strength in each other.
If it is a friend of yours who is experiencing the grief, then offer to spend time with them though only if they want this. It is difficult to know what to say but just being there to talk to, to listen and to hug them can be more powerful than you can imagine. Don’t worry about mentioning the deceased by name, many of those who are grieving want to talk about them and it can be incredibly helpful to do so.
You can help by making sure not to leave out the person who is grieving in any planned social activities. They will need to know they are still very much part of the gang. Discourage them if they are planning on making any immediate life-changing decisions such as quitting a job or college. This may be a knee-jerk reaction and may not be a good decision in the long term.
There are other ways to help yourself or others in this situation. If you are still in school, college or university, they may offer a counselling service that you could make use of. These are quite often a drop in type of situation making it even easier to utilise it. If you are not in education, you could still find a counsellor through another route. Speak to your medical professional or online for young people resources.
Other young people find attending a bereavement support group useful. There you will be able to talk with others who have experienced grief or know about suicide.
However you choose to remember your friend or relative, you may like to create a photo book or memory box. Writing down your feelings is an excellent way of purging and cleansing your stress.