Dealing with Grief

Support Matters

Caitlin Cronin, Writer

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Two weeks before Christmas, in the middle of my 8th grade year, my dad passed away. One of my friends dropped me off at home after basketball practice, and my mom answered the door with a really mournful look on her face. Not knowing what had happened, I continued to feel upbeat from a really good practice. My mom told me to sit down and took my hand. She told me that my dad had passed away earlier that day. It felt like everything that I knew was falling apart. I remember feeling very lost, and I did not sleep at all. I also remember asking myself “Why did this happen to me?” and even blaming myself for his death.

Not even a week later we had the funeral for my dad. The funeral was a difficult process to go through, but in a way, it was the good since I had friends and family there. Unfortunately, when the funeral was over, and the friends and family left, their comfort and support started to fade away.  I still felt the need to talk to someone, and I knew I needed help getting through. Though I was really uncomfortable and unsure about talking to a counselor, my mom found an organization called Cornerstone of Hope that helps children, teenagers and adults deal with grief by providing counseling.  The first day I met with my counselor, I still thought it was stupid, and I didn’t want go back. Eventually though, I began to see the positive impact of counseling.

At first, I visited a counselor by myself, but after several months, I found out that Cornerstone of Hope offered a support group for teens. I decided to go to talk with other teens going through the same ordeal. The first few meetings were awkward, and everyone in the group was very uncomfortable sharing how they felt. Over time, we  began to get comfortable sharing our feelings and even started to have fun in the grief group.  It was amazing to connect with people who were going through a similar experience to mine. I didn’t feel alone anymore, and this really changed my perspective on life.  It helped me realize that I could enjoy life again.

One out of every 20 children who are fifteen and younger will experience the death of one or both parents. That’s only about 0.05% of children worldwide but the statistic doesn’t lessen the impact of such a life-changing event. Those who lose a loved one still need support.  Friends sometimes don’t know how to talk with someone who has lost a parent.  There are times when people talk excessively to a person who is grieving in an effort to make that person feel better.  When I first returned to school after my father passed away, a couple of my best friends tried to help me by talking to me, hugging me, and trying to make me feel happy.  While I understood that they were trying to make me feel better, it made me feel worse, like my grief did not matter.

My counselor at Cornerstone of Hope says that most of the time when a person is grieving, those people who aren’t very close to the person will just leave that person alone and let him or her come to them to talk. I have had people show their sorrow by giving me or my mom a look and then just walking away. If you want to be there for someone, then tell them you are going to be there for them. When people actually approached me and said “You are strong and you can get through this” rather than sending a text or a chat on social media, it truly made me feel strong. I knew that I didn’t have to go through my grief alone. Or instead of saying you’re available, you can write a note. A lot of people have written me letters and have given condolence gifts. This made me feel like they were still “there” for me and that they genuinely cared about me.

While support from family and friends is great, getting support from other people who are going through the same journey as you is even better experience. If you don’t want to try a support group or go to a grief counselor, there are other ways to interact.  Cornerstone of Hope offers summer camps for children and teens. The summer camps are a great way to get the support from teens your age while still having fun doing summer camp activities.

If you are dealing with loss, it’s critical that you find comfort in some way whether it be talking with friends, family members or counselors.  And if you have a friend who is experiencing a loss, show your love and support by being available in whatever capacity your friend needs.  Everyone will eventually experience the pain of losing a loved one, but when you are young, the experience can be truly overwhelming, and it’s important to know who to turn to for comfort and love.

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