Sunday, July 1, 2012

Helping Adolescents and Young Adults Learn to Grieve

It occurred to me that tomorrow and Tuesday are going to be particularly hard for many people and also on the young adults who attend the wake (Mon 4 pm to 8 pm) and funeral (Tues at 10 am) at St. Norbert's for Ryan McCarthy.  Back in the mid 90's I was blessed to be a part of the development of the Ministry of Bereavement at St. Norbert's.  I recall much of the pain I witnessed and how out of place large numbers of young adults looked at wakes where more often than not, it was older and perhaps wiser adults who came to offer support and condolences to family members hit by the loss of a loved one.

I happened to be at Mass on the morning of Billy Garrity's funeral.  I remember walking in to the main vestibule about 815 and saw two young adults dressed very nicely and holding coffee cups.  As Mass ended the walk back out of Church was more of a maze than normal with all the young people who came early.  I know many of the older folks who attend wakes and funerals are far too used to it and have already learned about grief.  The young adults are another story.  After all not many of us are ever willing to talk about loss trough death.  Learning how to grieve is an experiential learning that only happens around the time of death.  With that in mind I wanted to write a short bit about how to grieve.  Maybe a young adult will read this or you can pass some of the idea's along?

I like the acronym TEARS to describe what people do most often that is helpful.  Grief is both a feeling and a process.  It hurts like hell and scares the heck out of people....the emotion runs very strong.  Needless to say many opt to try and run from it; either through medication or denial....often both.  The goal of the grieving process is to go from a relationship of presence with the loved/lost, to a relationship of memory.  Instead of "this is how things are," it's "this is how things were."  The method to get there is TEARS;

T = Trying hard to accept the reality of the loss.

E = Experience the pain of the loss.  Don't block it off.

A = Adjust to the environment without the person.  A very hard process that requires living.

R = Reinvest in the new reality.  Love again and continue to connect with others.

S = Seek support of others.  Mention how you feel to others.

Tomorrow and Tuesday, if you attend the wake and funeral Mass, take the time to speak with others.  Be open, be honest and be willing to state how you really feel.  The USA is the only Country who advertises in the paper for people to come and support the family and friends at the time of a loss through death.  It's how things are supposed to work.  We come together to support each other and to celebrate the life of the individual lost.  It's hard, uncomfortable and frightening.  The effect though is very comforting.

And for you adults who aren't too comfortable around large groups of kids, here's your chance to learn tolerance at an even deeper level.  They will really need your support too.

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