Recently, several Midlands communities have suffered the losses of a relatively high number of young people. Acts of nature, acts of man and biological idiosyncrasies have demonstrated their abilities to halt the force and potential of life.
Who among us is not touched when young people have their bright futures cast forever into the darkness?
It doesn’t matter whether we knew them or not.
For those who had not the pleasure of knowing these young people, the mind instantly flashes to someone you do know who is around the same age or same grade level.
“What if that were…?”
It is unimaginably difficult for friends and family whenever young people are taken from our earthly presence. The “How’s” and the “Why’s” can be haunting and lingering.
As adults, we eventually learn to cope and to lean. We often limp and lean through, drag and dread through, even stop and start through; but eventually we move through the process of grieving our losses. Some instances take a lot longer to move through the five stages of grief than others.
For young people who often lack the words or the confidence to express their happiest emotions, imagine the difficulty of trying to communicate the deepest darkest feelings the human mind can conjure up.
Picture a tinted view of life further clouded by denial, anger, depression, bargaining and ultimately acceptance resulting from the loss of a young friend or relative – a person who most likely appeared invincible just yesterday.
Young people should first understand that it is okay to ask “Why?”
It is expected that you will be angry – angry at the doctors, the coaches, the gunman; dare I say, even angry at God (but hopefully only for a short period).
All of these feelings are natural. Anger is one of the stages or phases of the grieving process.
People move through the stages in different order, and may be held in phases for different durations. There is no standard length of time to spend in any one phase or to complete the cycle of grief.
It is more important to recognize and acknowledge where you are in the cycle. It is also vital to have a support system or strong network of people who are willing to provide a listening ear and sympathetic heart.
I know sometimes it seems a little awkward because you don’t know what to say to someone who is taking a loss especially hard.
In most cases, you don’t have to say anything.
Just continue to be a friend; continue to live your life as you did before the loss. Your friends will take great comfort in knowing that you are still a friend. Your presence is generally more comforting than trying to say the “right” thing. Keep talking about what happened in English class or in the lunchroom. Keep the new information coming about who “broke up” or who “hooked up.” Your friend needs to know that all life did not stop. While it may sound cold to say, it is this truth that eventually guides us through the cycle of grief – “Life Goes On.”
Allow grieving young people to “return to themselves.”
Give them space, but also give them support.
Instead of asking them, “Why can’t you just get over it?,” allow them to ask, “Why did this have to happen?”
Be young. Have fun.