I live in a world filled with grief, after losing my son eighteen months ago. I’m sure most people have experienced some sort of loss by the time they are in their thirties. When we are mature adults, for the most part, we know how to look for resources and feel comfortable seeking help if needed. When young adults, 18 to 25 years old, are living through a loss, they are not as aware of the their options for help. They are also not as comfortable talking to a therapist, who is essentially a stranger to them, about their grief. When it comes to grieving, young adults are the ones that usually get lost in the commotion of things. We are checking in on our younger children, they seem more vulnerable. As Cooley, Toray, and Roscoe state, in an article in the Omega Journal , “Normal developmental tasks such as identity formation and working towards meaningful intimate relationships can be greatly influenced by bereavement.” (26) The article goes further, to talk about other obstacles grieving young adults face compared to challenges their peers may face. How can we support the young bereaved adults in our life?
I know with my son who is eighteen, I was and still am scared that if I push too hard for him to get help or get him to talk, he might pull away and avoid talking to me all together. As parents, we don’t want to press too hard and are trying to take cues from them. It’s finding that balance that can be difficult. When you look at resources out there, there is a lot of information on how to support children, adults and parents, not much for young adults. I volunteer and attend the Dougy Center, a center that offers support for bereaved children. Recently the Dougy Center started offering support groups for young adults, when previously they hadn’t. Once you hit eighteen years old, you were aged out of your group. Some kids feeling a new sense of loss from their group that had become their second family; peers that understood how they felt without saying a word. I see the differences in how my eighteen-year-old processes his grief compared to my twelve year old, and how being at this transitional point of young adulthood creates a whole other set of issues. When you are eighteen, you are at a time in your life where you are expected to show independence, after losing a loved one, you may long for the days to be taken care of and have no expectations of you, You feel all of this, plus a need to show signs of being independent. With this juxtaposition of these emotions, you need someone to talk to more than ever.
The Dougy Center is great and can only do so much with their funding in means of expansion. I did some research and found out there are various other resources for young adults. In a world where our teens and young adults spend a lot of time on the Internet, online support seems like an easy avenue of support to seek. I did a few searches and found that they’re various websites that offer support via the Internet. One of those resources was Griefnet.org; they offer support through other peers that is done in an email setting. I also found Onlinegriefsupport.com, they offer discussion forums you can be apart of. Although I find these groups very helpful Jenny Charles, MBACP from Counseling Solutions, talks about the benefits of face to face counseling, one being that when we grieve we may have a lot of non-verbal cues going on, and a trained professional can get a deeper understanding of what you are trying to communicate.
Some young adults find themselves at College during this vulnerable time. I checked out some college websites and found that some of them offer grief counseling, in addition to other counseling services. This is a valuable resource, as many young adults are away at college and experience a loss during that time. You would be surprised that most national, and local colleges in Oregon, don’t offer counselors that specialize in grief. Washington, Doane and Southwestern colleges are a few that offer bereavement counseling from trained professionals. What can we do to change this?
You can help by being that light that offers these resources to a grieving young adult you may know. You can approach your local colleges and propose the idea to have trained grief counselors. Here are some websites with information on how you can support a grieving young adult:
Cooley, Eric, Tamina Toray, and Lauren Roscoe. “Reactions to Loss Scale: Assessing Grief in College Students.” Omega 61.1 (2010): 25-51. MEDLINE. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Research on a Community-Based Question
Cooley, Eric, Tamina Toray, and Lauren Roscoe. “Reactions to Loss Scale: Assessing Grief in College Students.” Omega 61.1 (2010): 25-51. MEDLINE. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. I found this article interesting. You hear more about the effects of loss on children, and not much about young adults. My older son was 17 when he lost his brother and it has been challenging knowing what to do or say, or even how to be there for him. Now he is 18 and you can see his struggles of trying to be a man, but also feeling overwhelmed with his grief and not wanting to take it all on. Those years are hard enough with out navigating one’s grief. This article touched the hardships on these issues and how it can set you back. It talks about the disadvantages you have compared to your peers using the Reactions to Loss Scale. Cooley is a Professor of Psychology at Western Oregon University. Toray and Roscoe are from Western Oregon University. Toray is a Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Western University. Roscoe is a Professor of Psychology at Western Oregon University.
DeMinco, S. “Young Adult Reactions To Death In Literature And Life.” Adolescence 30.117 (1995): 179-185.MEDLINE. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. This article looked to understand young adults reactions to grief through their literature. It talks about how early intervention helps prevent negative behaviors from becoming the normal coping mechanisms through these rough times in their lives. This article, like the last one talks about how this is a difficult time in a persons life without the struggles of grief. A common observation in most articles I read about this. DeMinco is an Emeritus Associate Professor at Lehman College.
“Grief Watch.” Teen and Young Adult Grief. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.griefwatch.com/teen-and-young-adult-grief>. This website had contributors that gave advice on how to manage your grief or help others manage. One particular contributor John Schwiebert, talks about how important it is to get together with other peers that are experiences grief from the same loss and talk about what you are feeling. This creates a safe place to cry or process what other feelings your may have. His article had a religious undertone, which I believe can offer some comfort to others, but I in particular found the advice on peers getting together helpful. I hope my son’s friends have chances to do this and my older son has friends that he feels safe with. John Schwiebert is a Reverend and contributor to Grief Watch.