Going back to school after my dad died was scary, and I didn’t think about how my peers, who didn’t understand grief, would react.
As a fourteen year old who had just lost her father and was weeks into high school, I was overwhelmed. And, that was not helped by my peers, many of whom had never experienced grief before. The first week after his death, all I heard was:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I heard about your dad, and I’m really sorry.”
I had gotten hundreds of variations of those two messages when I returned to school. But, a week later when my grief was really setting in, this is all I heard:
“OMG did you see what so and so said about that guy?!”
“You won't believe what she just told me!!!”
It seemed that everyone had forgotten about the most pressing thought on my mind: my dad had died. Life had moved on. But, I hadn't.
Approximately 1 in 5 kids lose a loved one by the time they’re 18. But, that also means that for every kid going through grief, four others aren’t. And, most of them just don’t get it.
My friends were amazing after my dad died. But, as time passed by, the quickly stopped asking how I was and being there for me. I missed homecoming because of my dad’s death, and they didn’t realize that talking about all of their fun while I was miserable made me feel even worse. And, my peers didn’t mention my dad again and didn't seem to realize how that made me feel more alone instead of distracting me.
So, what could be done? I, like many other grieving teens, was surrounded by my peers who had no idea what I was going through. The answer was simple, but I didn't realize it until much later:
Tell your friends how you're feeling.
Yes, this might seem crazy. But, it makes the most sense. Your friends will never truly understand what you're going through until they go through grief. And, even then, their grief might be completely different than yours. Talking to your friends about your grief and how you’re feeling can lead to conversations that you were unable to have before. Explaining things that your friends do that you dislike (such as avoiding the topic of your loved one or not asking you how you're doing) can help them understand how to help you more, and talking about your grief can help them understand what you're going through more.
When I began telling my friends how I felt, asking them to check in on me, and reaching out, I encountered a really positive change in my life. Almost all of the times I asked, my friends were there. It became evident to me that they cared a lot, but they just didn’t understand how to be there for me without a bit of my assistance.
Going through grief as a teenager sucks. Having close friends by your side can help you get through the hard parts, and enjoy the easier ones more, even if it’s hard to open up the initial conversation.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Noah Silliman.