THE LONELINESS OF GRIEF
Emotional Health Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com
"When you are with a circle of people who have a similar experience, you can speak freely about your real feelings, knowing that others in the room will understand and accept you in your grief because they are in their grief."
When you are young and you experience the death of a loved one, you are thrusted into a club that no one would ever volunteer to join. You become a grieving person, with a story of loss that is often tragic and always weighted with heavy sadness, no matter what other feelings flow through you.
Many young people find that one of the hardest parts about experiencing death when they are young is the feeling that they are alone in their grief. Often, they don’t know other people their age who have experienced a similar loss. Sometimes many of their friends and acquaintances haven’t experienced any significant loss in life yet.
Grief is a natural response to the loss of a person you love who is part of your life. As children, the first experience of loss may be a cherished pet, or learning about death through the death of other animals, such as wildlife on the side of the road. Many children experience the death of a grandparent or other relative at some point, but when children are young, they may be kept apart from many of the grieving rituals and traditions such as funerals. It may be that the relative was elderly, that they were not familiar with the child or part of their regular family environment. As a result, the concepts of death and grief remain vague.
When you have experienced the death of a caregiver, a sibling, another close relative, or a close friend, it takes you much deeper into the experience of grief than many of your peers will know or understand. This can create feelings of loneliness and isolation in addition to all the usual mixed feelings of grief.
If you are experiencing grief, know that you are not alone. Although it may not seem common, many other young people have gone through a loss like yours. You can connect with them by searching for children’s grief resources. Many of these resources are available for youth and young adults, not just young children. Read articles and blogs, watch videos, and listen to podcasts to gather information about common experiences.
It can be especially validating and reassuring to join a grief group, virtually or in person if one is available in your area. When you are with a circle of people who have a similar experience, you can speak freely about your real feelings, knowing that others in the room will understand and accept you in your grief because they are in their grief. This can be a powerful healing opportunity in a world where it seems like nobody understands you. In such a group, you know you are not alone, and you can see others who are navigating grief as they adapt to their loss, which can give you hope for healing, too.
Resources for grieving youth:
Camp Erin: A weekend camp experience for grieving children and youth ages 5-18 where they have the chance to learn about living with grief and to have fun with other young people who are grieving, too.
Dougy Center: An organization committed to ensuring children, youth and young adults have access to information and support to help them navigate grief.
Heal Grief: A website with resources geared to the needs of young adults who are grieving even as they strive to move forward in their life.