Friday, November 9, 2012

Supporting Teens In Grief

A few weeks back I posted about a case I was working on regarding a student whose parent was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, her health took a turn for the worse and this case has now become one dealing with grief.

I have not had any experience working with students in a time of grief and found myself getting pretty anxious about the prospects. So, in order to prepare myself for the worst I purchased a few books off of Amazon to have if the time came to work through grief, whether this year or beyond. (The books I purchased will be listed below in a separate Resource section.)

When I received word about the parent’s passing, my anxiety increased tremendously. How can I possibly help or make a difference? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if not saying/doing anything is the wrong thing? The negative self-talk continued on and on and on….

Instead of sitting in that negativity I decided to finally look through the books I had purchased. After flipping through them and heeding some of the advice I felt a bit better. The books are meant to be read from the point of view of the griever. So information about the poor responses people might have, I tried to combat. I also posted a message on a school psychology listserv I belong to looking for any last second guidance (Thanks for your helpful words, Jason!).

I finally got a chance to meet with the student on Wednesday. I was nervous but mentally pep-talked myself. Overall, the initial session went well. We reminisced and talked about how she was working to combat the denial (e.g., involvement in funeral planning). We checked-in about her self-care plan and how her other family members were coping. All I could think about was how strong this young girl was sitting in front of me. As I was about to give her some kudos, she vocalized that all of her teachers were shocked at her attendance in school and told her how “strong” she was. I immediately shut my mouth and nodded along.

At the end of the session I reminded her that during our time together we will be going at a pace that is comfortable for her. I also informed her that we can go over stages of grief and develop some coping skills and self-care routines. As she was leaving I presented her with a “Hot Pass” allowing her to leave her class to see me whenever she needed during the day.

In my preparation for these sessions I have found a few resources/books I want to share!

·        Dower & Lister (2001). I Will Remember You: What to Do When Someone You Love Dies - A Guidebook Through Grief for Teens. New York: Bantam Books .(Amazon)


·        Emswiler & Emswiler (2000). Guiding Your Child Through Grief. New York: Scholastic Inc. (Amazon)


·        Wolfelt (2001). Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas. Fort Collins, CO: Companion Press. (Amazon)


·        Grollman (1999). Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love. Boston: Beacon Press. (Amazon)


·        Krementz (1988). How It Feels When a Parent Dies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (Amazon)


·        NASP (2010). Death and Grief: Supporting Youth and Children. Retrieved from

·        Comerchero & Brown (May 2012). Grief and Bereavement Research and Interventions Interest Group Proposed. Communiqué 40(7). Retrieved from

Are there any books you have that you use when working through grief? Any unique activities that you would recommend?

Until next thyme,

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