Resources for suicide loss

Hands Julie and Emma_Fotor

Sadly, we’ve heard that two Jackson County teens have taken their own lives in separate incidences this past week.  We have resources to help in the aftermath of such tragic losses.  We also wish to share what we can about how teens grieve — whole schools have been affected.  Our hearts go out to everyone involved.

And from US News: Surviving a Loved One’s Suicide


Teen Grief: What to look for, what to do

Teen Grief Cues

  1. Difficulty with concentration, with a decrease in academic performance
  2. Body distress which include headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and fluctuations in eating, eating disorders
  3. Acting out, including drug/alcohol use, risk-taking, promiscuity, uncontrolled emotions
  4. Wanting to be alone all the time  — isolated, sullen
  5. Increased irritability and anger
  6. Suicidal talk or behavior
  7. Anxiety, fear, panic, insecurity
  8. Lack of interest in usual activities
  9. Refusal to talk, or emotional withdrawal
  10. Becoming the “perfect” teen

Being with a Teen in Grief

  1. Establish a rapport – ask them questions about themselves to earn trust.
  2. Listen, care for and accept them as they are
  3. Acknowledge their loss, acknowledge that they are having a difficult time
  4. Assure them that what they are experiencing is normal
  5. Tell the truth, answer their questions honestly
  6. Expect the discussions to involve larger issues, not only the death or other loss
  7. Expect a range of emotions, sometimes shocking – accept their unique process
  8. Encourage them to participate in physical and creative activities that allow for expression of feeling and release of tension.
  9. Encourage peer group support, if available
  10. Remember that their families may be in turmoil and you might be the only stable influence in their life.

Resources:  The Dougy Center, The National Center for Grieving Children and Families, Alan Wofelt, Ph.D. and  Joseph A. Santiago

The puzzle pieces of our new life

I heard my daughter tell a friend, “Puzzles are the only holiday tradition we have.”

Wow, I suppose that’s true in a way.  After her dad died in 2004, I have tried to make the holidays special each year, but haven’t found anything the sticks year after year except our ritual of buying new jigsaw puzzles, bringing out the card table, and setting up for evenings of puzzling.   As we sat down the other night, I wondered about this tradition since our loss – the satisfaction of seeing the beautiful images unfold before our eyes as we fit the pieces together, a symbolic road map through grief.  Michael’s death brought a sense of chaos and uncertainty to our lives — the pieces didn’t fit in the way they had.  Not much about the holidays made sense to me, either.  What got us through year after year was the patient step by step, trying and failing, trying again and succeeding, bringing a chaotic mess of little pieces into something organized.  And now, I’d say that life does make sense.  This year we picked easier puzzles and we’ve already completed two.  I suppose the easy puzzles reflect that life is easier this holiday season.  We are blessed to have each other and a tradition that has helped us through this difficult time of year.

Helping Kids by Teaching Teachers about Grief

Photo by Jason Henry for the SF Chronicle

It takes lots of caring adults to help kids through grief. We had a conversation with the Medford School District this week about bringing our bereavement training into the schools — because teachers and other adults often don’t know how to help a youth in pain from a loss. It’s nice to see that this important work is being embraced in other places.  See this San Francisco Chronicle article.

What do kids in grief really feel?

New York LifNyl_con_griefjourneye is doing great work for understanding kids in grief.  They say in their recent study: Kids value communication about loss, but feel it’s lacking: Many say “most people don’t know how to talk to you after a loved one dies.”   The study also says that schools score poorly in helping these kids cope. That’s why programs like WinterSpring’s Teen Grief Groups are so important.  As school budgets get cut, kids get less and less support from staff and thus the nonprofits like us who go into the schools become even more important to the health of children, teens and their families.

And see this short video on how children feel: