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On the last track we discussed how grief reflects stages of development. The three stages of development we discussed are ages two to six, ages six to nine, and ages ten to thirteen. We also discussed the three key concepts of death as put forth by Dr. David Schonfeld. The three key concepts of death are “nonfunctionality” of the body, death is final and death is universal.
On this track we will continue to discuss how grief reflects stages of development. We will discuss the adolescent stage of development. The three phases of adolescence we will discuss are early adolescence, middle adolescence, and late adolescence.
As you know, adolescence is a turbulent stage of development. I have heard many parents of adolescents ask, “Are these strange actions and bad attitudes a sign of adolescence or is it grief?”
Having treated bereaved teens yourself, and perhaps had experience with non-bereaved teens, do you agree with the following statements? Adolescence itself is a stage of life filled with losses. Therefore, to a certain extent, all teens are dealing with grief, and adolescence itself is a period of mourning.
This loss was defined by professor of human development Lloyd D. Noppe as “the loss of parent-child attachment relationship.” Therefore, when parents ask about the cause of an adolescent’s behavior, I encourage those parents to instead ask, “How will the loss affect the child’s development?” Clearly, the phase of adolescence in which a child experiences a death may affect the developmental issues related to that phase.
Teenagers are fascinated with death and often spend time fantasizing about their own deaths. They wonder who would come to their funerals, how bad everyone would feel, and what rituals would take place. Even at this advanced age, however, teens still are not really in touch with the finality of death or the impossibility of enjoying their own funerals.
Teenagers have death romanticized for them in cultural ways such as music or books like Romeo and Juliet. They may even find themselves challenging death by driving recklessly, experimenting with drugs, or other risks and dangerous activities.
#1 Early Adolescence
In the normal stages of development, teens replace their parents with other role models. Instead, Matt’s grief prevented him from having a replacement role model. Sheila, who had lost her youngest son to leukemia, had children in all three phases of adolescence. Sheila’s son Matt was 13.
Sheila stated, “Matt used to think the world of his father. Roger was Matt’s hero. Now Matt pretty much ignores his dad. He has no one else to look up to and doesn’t talk to his friends anymore.” Clearly, the lack of a role model can have a negative impact on development.
Think of your Matt. Could the loss of a family member cause him or her to withdraw from friends or family? At the end of this track, we will discuss a technique which helps define role models for grieving adolescents.
#2 Middle Adolescence
Sheila stated, “Andrew’s pretty hard to deal with. He used to just ignore us like Matt, but now Andrew actively pushes us away. Nothing we do is right.” In my experience this is normal behavior for a teen in the phase of middle adolescence.
However, as a teen rejects his or her family’s values, he or she should be forming their own values. The grief resulting from a profound loss may prevent teens in the phase of middle adolescence from forming personal values. I have found that fear and anger can prevent teens from forming personal values in the phase of middle adolescence.
Have you had experience with other issues relating to development during middle adolescence which may be affected by grief?
#3 Late Adolescence
For example, Sheila’s son Paul, age 20, dropped out of college just three weeks after losing his younger brother to leukemia. Paul stated, “Man, I just don’t feel like there’s any hope for me. Why should there be? I mean, I don’t deserve a good life while my little bro rots in the ground.”
Have you had experience counseling a teen in late adolescence whose inability to deal with grief prevented him or her from functioning as an adult?
Technique: New Hero
2. Lines of Communications Open
Think of your Paul. Have you had experience counseling families who have the ability to help each other through the grieving process?
On this track and the last track we have discussed how grief reflects stages of development. On this track we have discussed three phases of adolescence. The three phases of adolescence we have discussed are early adolescence, middle adolescence, and late adolescence.
On the next track we will discuss the responsibilities of therapists regarding clients grieving the death of children from SIDS. We will also discuss the 6 common features of filicide. The 6 common features of filicide are first children, aged less than 7 months, suffering from seizures or apnea, recent hospital discharge, time of death, and mothers who smoke.
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