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Getting Help for your Grieving Teenager
By Tom McLeod

In most cases, teenagers who have experienced the death of a loved one will not need professional help. Continuing to live a routine life in a loving, caring environment of friends, family and community will provide the support and refuge most teens need to learn to live with their loss and prepare for future losses life undoubtedly will put in their way.

In some situations, however, professional help is needed. After any experience of violent death, whether that violence is man-made (such as murder, an act of war or mob violence) or natural (such as flood, tornado, earthquake or hurricane), the evaluation of a caring, family-oriented healthcare professional may be appropriate. In these situations, the possibility of long-term complications, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, should be addressed.

When professional help is needed, sources of help in your community may be found through the following:

  • The first line of care should be the teen’s primary healthcare provider. The family healthcare provider can make appropriate referrals to mental health providers or recommend other interventions that may be necessary. The provider also may help access any insurance benefits that may be available, or make referrals to public health or community-based resources.
  • The teen’s school may be another resource. Guidance counselors often know about useful community resources. If a teen is having a difficult time with his or her grief, the school staff, such as teachers and the guidance counselor, should be involved. They can be invaluable allies in helping a teen with his or her grief.
  • Another source of help for bereavement care is your local hospice provider—even when the deceased was not a hospice patient. Hospices generally provide resources and referrals for bereavement care at no cost.
  • Check your local phone book for a children’s or young adult bereavement center. A growing number of communities have bereavement centers with programs for children and teenagers. Also check your local phone book for a community self-help phone number or help hotline. These clearinghouses may have listings of bereavement services available in your community for children and teenagers.
  • You also might check the community pages of your phone book to see if your community has a public mental health center. Such a center often will help to evaluate and refer teens who are having a difficult time with bereavement, especially when they are depressed, despondent or unusually angry.

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