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- How I'm Living with Regret and Grief
Forgiving myself for what I did (and didn't) do before my dad died. Teenagers are infamously known for making poor choices. This was a fact my mom made a point to remind me of every single time I left the house my freshman year of high school. “Don’t do drugs!” she’d say as she dropped me off at the local bookstore to meet my friends. “Don’t drink and drive!” she’d say as she dropped me off at school (I neither drank nor had a driver's license). My mom was always worried I’d do something I’d regret, and she made it her life’s mission to warn me about every single thing possible. I swear, I learned more about the trouble teenagers get up to from her than from any of my peers. I was a really good kid, even without my mom’s consistent nagging. On top of that, I had near-crippling anxiety at the time, and the anxiousness that came from forgetting a homework assignment in another classroom that one time was enough to keep me from any serious trouble. I thought I’d be okay and never look back with regret. But, little did I know, I was already making choices that haunt me still. In late August of that year, one of my childhood best friends invited me to a birthday pool party. I was so excited - the only downside was that I wouldn’t get to see my dad that weekend. It was honestly a pretty easy choice: Pool party versus Dad’s pool-less, party-less house?... pool party, for sure. A few weeks later, after a student council meeting, I got on my phone and saw that my dad had called me. I texted him, asking what was up, and he said he was giving me a call back. I was confused, since I hadn’t called him in the first place and my dad was tech-savvy enough to know that, so I just said I hadn't called and didn’t call back. Those two moments still play in my mind, over and over, five years later. It wasn’t the regret my mom or I had pictured myself living with, but it’s the regret that stayed. My dad died just a few weeks after that pool party. I had barely seen him that last month because he was sick and I was busy with school and band, and I missed out on my last chance to see him. The missed phone call was just days before he died. When I didn’t call back, I missed out on the last chance to talk to him, ever. The regret of those two choices engulfed me after he died. How could I have chosen a pool party over him?! Why didn’t I call him back? Those two choices I made were big and terrible, and I hated myself for them. Now that I was living in a world without my dad, it made no sense why I would have made those two, terrible, horrible, mistakes. "Now" is the key, though. Now that I was living in a world without him. For me, logic tends to work best when I’m coping with hard situations, so that’s how I’ve dealt with this. I didn’t get it at the time, and honestly even if I did it might not have helped, but those two things were perfectly normal choices for a teenager to make. Most teens would choose a party - let alone a pool party - over spending time with one of their parents. Teens are also notorious for not returning phone calls. Neither of these situations would likely still be strong memories now if he hadn’t happened to die right after - and I didn’t know he was going to. Looking back, there were so many signs that it might happen, but I didn’t see them. I was a kid, I was a teenager, I didn’t know what would happen next, and that is not my fault. If I had known, of course I would’ve chosen to see him. I would’ve called him back - or, better yet, I would’ve spent that entire last week with him. If I had known, of course, of course, of course I would have chosen differently - but I did not know. To be honest, I think even if I had spent that weekend and I had called him back, I’d still have regrets. This article would still exist, just with different context. In a strange way, that is comforting to me. There never would have been a perfect ending, even if I had called. No amount of him with him would have been enough. Even if I spent every one of his last days with him, I’d probably still be right here, regretting all of the days I spent without him. Regret and grief suck, but I’m trying to move forward. I wish I had spent more time with my dad, but I didn’t, and I’m trying to make that okay. I’m trying to forgive the me that didn’t know. I’m trying to remember that I was a kid, and I still am (just not legally). We all do things that we regret, but living in it won’t change anything. The only thing we can do is try to improve for the future. For me, that means trying to spend more time with my sister. I don’t let myself take her love, support, and life for granted. I call her, and I visit her, and I tell her I love her all the time. It doesn’t erase my regret about my dad, but it does help me feel better. If he were to show up here, I know he’d regret the time he’s missed in her life, so I don’t let myself miss it. Forgiving yourself is a journey, a hard one, but it’s worth it, of course. I encourage you to channel your regret into something else - like how I reach out to my sister - and to remember that it’s not your fault that you didn’t know what you were going to lose. I didn’t, either. Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.
- Coping with Grief During The Holidays
How I cope with grief during the holidays. Around Christmastime, my grief goes into overdrive. It feels like every little thing reminds me of who I've lost, which is even more overwhelming than usual. Over the past few years, I have learned a bunch of coping skills that have helped me get through the holidays, and here are my favorites: 1. When you're feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. For me, this means heading to a private corner or even the bathroom and spending a few minutes scrolling through my phone. This year, I plan on bringing headphones to my Christmas celebration so I can listen to a song that cheers me up whenever I get upset. 2. Let yourself be sad! I know, this probably sounds counterproductive, especially if you're like me and just want to figure out how to have a happy holiday! When you suppress your emotions, though, they tend to only get stronger, and burst out at what feels like the worst possible time. Whenever you're reminded of your grief or who you've lost, take a few minutes and sit in those emotions. Let yourself be sad, cry, do whatever you need to do! Just because you're feeling your emotions, though, doesn't mean that you have to sit in them forever. Afterwards, I recommend trying to find something to do that cheers you up - like watching a funny clip on YouTube or spending time with a family member that always makes you laugh. 3. Talk about how you're feeling. People can't know how you're feeling unless you tell them. I know, it sucks, and things would be so much easier if everyone could read your mind, but people can't. Your loved ones may not realize how hard the holidays are for you or they may be feeling the exact same way and not know how to express it. Either way, it's worth it to reach out and talk about how grief feels right now and ask for support in the way you need it. 4. When you ask for support, be specific. If I had a penny for every time someone told me that they wanted to support a grieving person but just didn't know how, I'd be rich. Even though it may seem really obvious to us what we need and how we can be given support, it isn't always that obvious for other people. I've found that being more specific about what I need will cause more people to show up for me, because the problem wasn't motivation, it was that they didn't know how to be there for me. Saying things like "can you ask me how I'm doing on Christmas because that'll be a hard day?" or "When you notice I look sad can you try to make me laugh so I can be distracted from my grief?" gives your loved ones specific instructions they can follow, so there's no question in what to do for you. (Of course, there will be people who you try this with and who still don't show up for you. It's hard, I know, and while sometimes it's just that they need more time to figure it out, other people don't put the effort in. Don't let that discourage you, though! There are so many people out there who want to help you and support you.) 5. Plan something that you enjoy doing. The way I was able to get through the first Christmas after my dad died was because I was in my room having fun redecorating and eating leftover stuffing. While that may not sound like fun to you, it was fun for me, and doing something I enjoyed made the day a lot easier. While I'm sure many of you will enjoy your holiday celebrations, others won't, or will feel drained afterwards. During your holiday, try to incorporate plans that sound fun to you - whether it's a big thing, like going somewhere with your family, or a small thing, like watching an episode of a good television show. 6. Be easy on yourself. It's okay if holidays this year aren't as good as they used to be. It's okay if you have big emotions and feel like you can't enjoy the celebrations. I often push myself to enjoy holidays and ignore my grief, even though I know that is not the answer. I have such big expectations for myself, at times, and get disappointed when I get sad. But it's okay that I'm sad and I'm still grieving, even during the holidays. Take it easy on yourself. Give yourself space to grieve and don't push yourself to ignore grief and pretend to be happy, if you aren't. Yes, try to enjoy the holidays if you can, but also know that it is okay if it's hard or if you can't. Grief takes time, and it's hard, and you don't have to pretend to be okay when you aren't. Natalie Adams is the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.
- From Happy Holidays to Sad Holidays
I used to love Christmas, but now it's just a reminder of the people I've lost. I have so many good memories of Christmas from when I was a kid. My parents were divorced, and every other year I would spend the night of Christmas Eve and Christmas day at my dad’s house. My dad and stepmom did the same thing every year for Christmas. My stepmom would pick out pajamas for my sister and I to wear Christmas morning, and excitedly give them to us to wear on Christmas Eve. My grandma always spent the night and somehow was always just as excited as my little sister was to open up presents on Christmas morning. We’d go to bed on Christmas Eve, my sister rushing to fall asleep and I, for some reason, always staying up way too late. While I was still fast asleep, my sister and Grandma always managed to wake up around 6 in the morning on Christmas Eve. They’d stay quit for a little bit, letting the rest of us sleep but typically around 8 would decide that they had waited too long for gifts and were going to wake everyone up. After going to bed in the wee hours of the morning, I was never thrilled to be woken up by my grandma and sister rushing up to my room and jumping on my bed, telling me I had to come downstairs so we could open gifts. They always convinced me to get up, though. Half asleep, I’d trudge down the steps, and be greeted by my stepmom making her Christmas breakfast casserole. I’d grab a plate and head to the living room, where my sister would already be surveying her presents and deciding which one she would open first. I would eat my casserole as my sister started opening her first gift, then we’d take turns opening each of ours. I woke up more with each gift, and was fully awake by the time we got to stockings - my favorite part. My dad and stepmom always gave us delicious candy in them and I loved snacking on it throughout the day. In the afternoon we’d sometimes go see family or just stay home and mess around with the gifts we got. Either way, it was always so much fun. Christmas used to be fun. Even though I was usually half asleep for part of the Christmas morning joy, and back then I would’ve definitely traded a few pieces of my candy for a few more hours of sleep, I look back on it now and would give almost anything to relive one of those mornings. I didn’t act like it back then, but I secretly loved the pajamas, being woken up early, having the same breakfast, the gifts - everything. I loved Christmas morning at my dad’s house. Christmas has been different since my dad and stepmom died, though. All holidays have been. Instead of having a good feeling in my stomach when Christmas gets closer and closer, I feel anxious. On Christmas morning, no matter how much fun is put in front of me, it’s hard to enjoy it. Instead of waking up around 8 on Christmas morning, I sleep in. No one comes to jump on my bed and beg me to open gifts with them. When I go downstairs to open gifts, we don’t have casserole. My grandma doesn’t spend the night. Everything is different. No matter how good the day itself is in theory, it just feels like a shell of what it used to be. It sucks. It sucks that Christmas isn’t like what it used to be. It sucks that I have a hard time enjoying the celebrations because I know it can’t live up to my memories of Christmas as a kid. It sucks that Christmas morning is sad now, because my dad and stepmom both passed away, and all of those good memories I have with them are now surrounded in grief and sadness. It sucks that Christmas, and all of the other holidays I used to love, just feel empty at times, now. The first Christmas after my dad died, I didn’t even leave my bedroom. We had family over to celebrate and I couldn’t bring myself to join in. The whole day felt like a terrible reminder of my grief and what I had lost, and I didn’t find any joy in it. The next year still hurt, but was a bit easier. I had fun, but that fun was cloaked in grief. I couldn’t see a stocking without seeing the one at my dad’s house or do a simple tradition without remembering all of the ones that were left behind. The years after got easier, but were still hard in some ways. I can have fun and not think about my dad and stepmom for a bit, but they’re always in the back of my mind. Christmas has gotten better, but it’s not the same, and sometimes that’s all I can think about. This year I am able to enjoy the festivities surrounding Christmas, but when I stop and think about it too much, I get sad. It has gotten easier, but it’s not easy. No matter where you’re at this year, I want you to know that it’s okay to be there. It’s okay if Christmas feels daunting, if it’s the day you’re looking forward to most, or if you don’t even know what to feel. It’s okay if you’re in the mood to celebrate and it’s okay if you’re not. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no right or wrong way to grieve during a holiday. You don’t have to make yourself be sad all day and keep yourself from having fun, but at the same time, if you are sad, it’s okay to sit in it for a bit and give yourself space to feel those big emotions. Holidays can be hard, especially when you’re grieving. This holiday season, I hope you give yourself space to feel whatever emotions you are having - good or bad - and that you surround yourself with love and support. I hope you are able to find some joy in it, too, and if you don’t, that you hold onto hope for a better holiday in the future. There is always hope for a better day. Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.
- The Pain Only Few Have Ever Known
Suddenly losing a sister. Written by Odessa Jayde. The day after Christmas, I lost my sister. She originally wasn’t supposed to live the first twenty-four hours. She lived to be ten years old. She was born with a lot of health issues (cerebral palsy, microcephaly and a few other issues I can’t remember). I remember the day she died like it was yesterday. It was my 12 year-old sister’s birthday and I was going up to my mom’s to spend the day with them and have dinner with them. I met up with my sister at a park that was in between my house and my mom’s house. We hit the corner to walk up the street when we heard the sirens, then we saw the ambulance and the police cars. We got closer to my mom’s house and that’s when my sister and I realized that the ambulance was at my moms house and we started to run. We hit the corner right across from her house and I heard “Those are my girls! Stop my girls!” I recognized the voice as my mom's. She was sitting on her front porch with an officer next to her to help her, while my sister was being carried to the ambulance. I had called my grandma when we heard the sirens and then I called her again to tell her what was going on. She then called my grandfather to come get me and my sister and bring us home. I sat in the truck while I watched my mom run to the cop car to get taken to the hospital. My grandfather took me and my sister home, my other grandfather called and said my sister had died, even though we weren’t a hundred percent sure. My other siblings were brought to the house. I sat there waiting for any new information on my sister, my grandma got a call from my mom saying she wanted my gramma to go to the hospital and sit with her. My grandma took me into my computer room and told me my sister died. My aunt and cousin came to sit with us while my grandpa took my grandma up to the hospital. I tried my best to not be hysterical but it was really hard not to fall apart. After my grandma came home, I left to go be with my boyfriend and his mom. I sat in his bed and cried for a long time and just talked to him about how I felt. After a few hours I went home. Five days after my siblings were removed from my mom and placed into foster care. January 2nd we had my sister’s funeral, I was in shock and couldn’t cry. I didn’t want to believe that my sister was gone, I blamed myself for the longest time. I thought “if I had gotten there sooner, I could’ve done something”. I felt like it was my fault that my sister died. I didn’t want to get out of bed. After all of this I was expected to go back to school and that was one of the hardest things in my life. After my sister was gone for a couple months, I made the decision to go see my sister’s teacher and see the classroom. It felt extremely hard but I did it. Odessa Jayde lost her sister the day after Christmas of 2020. She has decided to share her story online.
- Student Grief Twitter Chat Highlights
View the highlights of our April 20th Student Grief Twitter Chat. Last month, Teenage Grief Sucks hosted a Student Grief Twitter Chat, which was part of an essential ongoing conversation looking at how grieving students can support themselves and be supported by others, especially by their educators and peers. During the chat, many amazing people and organizations shared their insights on teenage grief, including To Write Love On Her Arms, The Grief Reality, the Rader Ward Foundation, YouAreLoved, and Families for Depression Awareness. We want to say a big thank you to these organizations, and all the others who participated, for helping us share the importance of being there for grieving students. If you're interested in checking out the highlights from the chat, click here to view the Twitter Moment.
- Grieving a Living Person
The grief that came with almost losing a friend to suicide. TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide A day less than one month after my dad died, I didn’t text someone goodnight. It was a night that was eerily similar to the one when my dad died. It was a Friday. My dad had died on a Friday. I was also at a school football game. My dad had died while I was at a football game. I was also planning on going out after the game. The only other time I had done that was the night my dad died. All of these similarities made me a bit nervous at first, but I ended up thinking nothing of it. During the game, I texted one of my best friends. Demi*. She had thought about going to the game, but to my disappointment, had chosen not to. So instead I spent a good portion of the night glued to my phone, until, near the end of the game she texted me goodnight. While I’m usually one of those people who replies to a text 0.5 seconds after I get it, for some reason, I didn’t say anything. I can always reply later. The game ended, and I still hadn’t texted Demi. I went out with friends and ate pancakes at midnight. That part really reminded me of the night when my dad died, which hurt, but I still had fun. I’ve always wondered if things would have been different if I had answered her text. If, instead of putting my phone away after seeing her goodnight, I had kept it out. Goodnight Demi. Be safe. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. :) Maybe she would have replied. Told me how she felt. Tried to distract herself. Or, it would’ve led to her talking to someone else, or just going straight to bed. The rational side of my brain knows that my reply wouldn’t have changed anything, but the other side still wonders. I texted her back later that night and got no reply. I thought nothing of it, assuming that she was asleep. The next morning, I woke up. It was one month since my dad died. A hard day. She didn’t text me. I tried convincing myself that everything was fine, she was sleeping in, she was grounded, she was mad at me, anything. But a thought kept coming back to me - What if she died? I knew about her struggles with depression. The fact that it might have killed her was the first thought that came to my mind. As the hours passed and she still didn’t reply, I began to realize the likely truth: she was gone. I kept on replaying the previous night in my head. The similarities between that night and the one my dad had died kept on popping up in my mind, but as I kept thinking about it, I realized that there was one key difference. The night my dad died, I was with Demi, and I was really happy. I was walking through the football stands, when suddenly, something felt wrong. My chest suddenly got really heavy and it was like the weight of the world had been placed on my shoulders. I felt empty, and like everything good that existed had suddenly vanished. This pain was so much that I actually sat down. At the time, I was confused, having no idea why I had gone from feeling happiness to hurting that much for seemingly no reason. The feeling passed after a minute or two, my joy resumed, and I mostly forgot about it until after I found out my dad died, when I looked through time stamps on photos and realized that I had felt that way around the time my dad died. It was him leaving. This time, though, I didn’t remember having that feeling, no matter how much I searched my memory. Even though I knew that my momentary emptiness the night my dad died might’ve just been a coincidence, I still held onto the little piece of hope, that if Demi had died, I would’ve felt it. Every time my phone went off that weekend, I rushed to it, hoping above all else that it was her. That she was okay. None of the notifications I got were from her, though. I Googled her name, her name and city, her name and “obituary,” and every other possible combination I could think of. She actually came up, which scared me at first, but it was for something unrelated. I checked her social media hourly, hoping she was online. I was waiting for the moment I’d see her “like” a post, breathe a sigh of relief, and then be upset that she wasn’t there for me for the one month since my dad died. I wanted to be upset with her. I wanted her to text me and then have to remind her that it was the one month. I wanted her to just have forgotten, to have made a mistake, to be alive. I was terrified that she wasn’t, though. That was one of the worst weekends of my life. The pain I felt was similar to what I had experienced just a month beforehand. Constant nausea, emptiness, and like my worst nightmare was coming true. Honestly, my worst nightmare was coming true. She was dead. She must have been. I thought that the worst feeling in the world was knowing that someone died, but then I began to wonder if the worst feeling in the world was not knowing if someone had died. Taking every breath wondering if that person is also breathing, going outside and wondering if they’ll ever see the bright blue sky again, and thinking of hundreds of things you want to tell them, and not knowing if you’ll ever get to. How am I supposed to do this without her? I still hadn’t heard anything from her by Monday. While I usually ignored a lot of what happened at my school, when I walked in that day, I was on high alert. A student dying seemed like something that would spread quickly, so I listened to every conversation that I could, dreading the moment I heard one about her. No one was talking about her, though, which gave me a lot of relief. To top it all off, I saw her best friend walking down the hallway, and I assumed that she would’ve skipped if Demi had died. Letting myself have a bit of hope was scary, mostly because I knew how terrible it would be if I got hope, and then found out the worst, but I started to get some. Maybe she is alive. The days passed, each one a bit more painful was the last. I developed a routine. Get up, check my messages, check social media, Google her, go to school, see if anyone was talking, and see if her best friend was there. I went from being convinced that she was dead to having no clue what had happened. So if she’s not dead… where is she? A whole week passed, and it was time for another football game. I got onto the bus, to drive to whatever school we were going to, and as we started driving away, I got a notification. Hi. She was alive. Where were you? You don’t want to know. Tell me. She told me. Turns out I was right. Well, partially. She had spent the week in the hospital, after almost dying by suicide. I cried. We texted for a bit, and I felt relief. I didn’t have to be scared anymore. It was over. She was alive. She wasn’t okay, but she was going to be. That was the end of this story. It was just one terrible week. Everything was okay. Except… it wasn’t. That whole week, I had assumed that if - when. - she texted me, it would be all over. That I’d breathe a sigh of relief, tell her I loved her, and move forward. That I would be okay, and she soon would be too. So… why wasn’t I okay? Instead of just becoming a part of the past, that week became a permanent fixture in my mind. When I would lay in bed at night, I’d think about how she could’ve died. That the text she sent me about going to bed could’ve been the last time I ever talked to her. That she would never have seen my reply. That I would’ve had to live the rest of my life without her. That I’d never get another hug from her, never hear her laugh again, never tell her another dumb joke that she probably wouldn’t enjoy anyway, or experience any part of life with her again. When my mind would wander during the day, I’d feel guilty. Guilty that I was angry, because I knew it wasn’t her fault that her world had gotten so heavy that she thought death was the only answer. Guilty that I hadn’t noticed. That whatever signs were there had gone over my head. Guilty that I didn't reply. That maybe, if I hadn’t just ignored her message at first, things would’ve gone differently. When things would get difficult, I’d feel anger towards her. Selfish, terrible anger. I wondered how she could try to leave me, just a month after my dad died. Why I - and everyone else in her life - wasn’t enough. How she could possibly do that to me, even though I understood why, and knew it wasn’t personal. On top of all of that, I felt fear. Constant, unbearable fear. Fear that it would happen again. That, like the last time, she would be in unbearable pain, and I wouldn't notice. That she would be gone forever. This fear didn’t just lie with her, though, and began to apply to every single person I knew. Whenever someone didn’t answer a text or phone call, I would freak out, wondering if they were dead. Even though I had no reason to worry, I’d text them hundreds of times, call them repeatedly, or check their social media for activity, just looking for a sign of life. The moment someone told me they were struggling, I’d start thinking that they were going to die, even if their struggle had nothing to do with suicide. I started trying to analyze people, trying to find the signs I somehow had missed with Demi, even if I had no logical reason to think that there would be any. I started keeping my phone with me at all times, and replying to texts instantly, and swore that I’d never ignore another “goodnight” text from someone. If I found out that someone was actually feeling suicidal, I’d lose it. I’d panic, not be able to breathe, and feel just like I did during that week I thought Demi was gone, even if I knew they were safe. These feelings only got worse over time. I told no one, including Demi. The only time we had ever talked about it was the night she got out of the hospital, and we barely talked then. I felt like, because she was alive, I couldn’t say anything about the pain I was feeling. That I didn’t have a right to be upset, I was selfish for not just being happy she was here, and that I should only feel positive things about it. I was facing this silent struggle alone, on top of all the grief I was feeling for my dad. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. That, if someone found out, they would think I was a horrible person and not understand. The first time I really talked about it was months later. The same thing happened to one of my friends with her boyfriend. When she got to school, I rushed over to her and gave her a hug. I understand. She and I talked about it. It was the first time I had told anyone how I felt, and she understood. It was like momentarily taking a heavy weight that I had been carrying for months off my shoulders. For the first time, I knew I wasn’t alone. After that, I slowly began bringing it up with the people I was closest to. Explaining that there was a reason the littlest of things would terrify me so much. I learned that, while some people didn’t understand, most were compassionate, and many had gone through similar things that they also didn’t talk about much. I was finally able to get support and begin to realize that a lot of the fears I had developed were irrational. I still didn’t bring it up to Demi, though. What I didn’t realize until later was that I was experiencing grief from this experience. That was strange to think about since, before then, I had always assumed that grief was only caused by a death. Grief can be caused by any type of loss, though. The grief I felt for Demi closely mirrored what I felt for my dad. The way it was different, though, was that I felt the pain of what did happen, and the pain of what could’ve happened. Every year, on the anniversary of it, it’s strange. Knowing that it’s just an “average” day, but could be the anniversary of her death. It’s terrifying. This year, I cried. It was strange. I texted her and told her I loved her, though didn’t mention that I knew it was the anniversary. I don’t know if she remembered. As I talked to her, I kept on thinking, Right now could’ve been two years since I last talked to her. Today could’ve been the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life. I could be missing her so much. I grieved her, even though she was right in front of me. In October of 2020, I went over to Demi’s house, and for the first time, I brought it up. She sat and listened as I told her how guilty, upset, angry, afraid, and sad I was. How I couldn’t imagine this world without her in it, and how terrifying that week was when I thought I’d have to live without her. It was one of the most difficult yet rewarding conversations I’ve ever had. She looked at me after I finished talking. “It wasn’t your fault.” That simple sentence made me cry even harder than I already was. It was strange, but those four words coming from her, the four words that I had been trying to unsuccessfully convince myself of for years, suddenly seemed true. If she had died that day, the world would’ve lost so much. I would never have gotten to know Demi as well as I do now. I wouldn’t have known what kind of dog she wants in the future. I wouldn’t know that she is a backseat driver and absolutely hates how slowly I drive. I wouldn’t have known that she can (occasionally) be really funny. I wouldn’t have known that she cannot do math. All of those are just a few of the things I’ve learned about her in the past week, and are just a few of the millions of other little things I’ve learned since that day. I would’ve missed so much if she died that day. There would forever be a Demi-sized hole in my life that no one else could ever fill. It took me a long time, and a lot of opening up to people, but it’s slowly gotten easier for me. I’ve stopped making up scenarios in my head about what would’ve happened if I had texted her back that night, or noticed any warning signs beforehand. Instead of being scared to talk about the difficult stuff with people and just worry in private, I’ve started to ask people how they’re doing, and not shy away from the hard conversations. I’ve started asking Demi more about her mental health and if she’s feeling suicidal, hoping that, whenever she feels that way, she knows that I will always be here to remind her why she has to stay. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that, no matter how much I obsess over the past, it cannot be changed, and that loss can never be prevented completely. Every time I hug Demi now, I do it a little longer than I did before, remembering how much it hurt when I thought I’d never get to again. If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. For more urgent support resources, click here. *Name changed for privacy purposes. Natalie Adams created Teenage Grief Sucks after the death of her dad.
- A Review of IF ONLY by Carole Geithner
The story of a teenager navigating life after the death of her mom. I often feel very alone in my grief. Like I am the only person experiencing everything I’m going through, and no one in the world could possibly understand. Loneliness has been one of the worst parts of grief for me. A few months ago, Carole Geithner reached out to me and sent me a copy of her book, If Only, about a teenager whose mom had just died. Before I read the book, I honestly had no clue what to expect. I read online about it a bit, and was interested to learn that this book was actually influenced by Geithner’s experience of losing her mother in her early 20’s and working with grieving teenagers as a social worker. When I got the book, I read it, and then read it again. The biggest thing I can say is: Wow. She gets it. The book starts out with the main character, Corinna, a 13 year old who just lost her mom, being annoyed by a person who thinks that they’re helping, but is really just making things worse. Then, Corinna goes back to school for the first time since her loss, and one of the first things she sees is a mom saying goodbye to their child, which reminds her of her grief. I reread these pages at first, in shock. It was like I was reading my own experiences in a book, just with different people. After reading those first few pages, I was hooked. During the story, Corinna goes through the things I thought I was alone in experiencing. Struggling to maintain close friendships with people who haven’t been through a loss, observing that people avoid talking about the person who died, and experiencing difficulty going back to school are just a few. It’s easy to feel alone in grief. Like you are the only one going through something. And then you come across something, like this book, and see what you are going through described almost perfectly, and are able to realize that maybe you aren’t as alone as you feel. Even though If Only focuses on the life of an 8th grader who lost her mom, as a highschooler who lost her dad, it still resonated with me. While parts of the book are specific to losing a parent or guardian, many parts of it describe aspects of grief that are universal, such as seeing other people move on with their lives while you feel stuck. Geithner wrote a book that is relevant to all kids who have gone through a loss, and is an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn more about grief. If you’re interested in learning more about this book, you can visit carolegeithner.com. Thank you, Mrs. Geithner, for sharing this exceptional read with me, and I hope anyone else that reads it finds as much comfort as I did. Natalie Adams is the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter: @natalieladams.
- Left in the Dark
A poem by Alex. I wear black maybe some white Can someone please take my hand? Drag me into the light the pain hurts in my heart its broken I've been taken apart Piece by piece I’m fading away Maybe someone will hear my words one day I run and run chasing my own tail trying to be the best but in the end, I always fail people always leave and that’s that they left so did the cat it pains me to know they’re out there it pains me to know they don’t care My eyes aren’t dry but rivers pour and if we were friends why aren’t you here anymore well you see I sometimes go to the park but then again I’ll always be LEFT IN THE DARK Hello everyone, I'm Alex. This poem is pretty much about how I felt at the beginning of my grief which for me was a rough dark part. I felt I was alone and didn't have anyone. When I lost my Step-Father, I felt destroyed, like a hole was left in my heart. I eventually discovered I am not alone and have my entire family and all my friends by my side. Just remember that you are not alone when it comes to the passing of a loved one and you can get through this. I believe in you.
- A Year of Changes Without Dad
The world has changed, and Dad isn't here for it. The anniversary of my school closing down due to COVID just passed. It was definitely odd, looking at the calendar and realizing that, one year ago on that day, I was packing up my locker, thinking I was just getting an extended spring break. One of the strangest things to me about the pandemic is that my dad will never know about it. This big thing that has completely changed my - and everyone’s - life is something he wasn't here for. My dad will never experience wearing a mask everywhere, getting his temperature checked all the time, and having the world temporarily shut down. I’ve talked about this before, but I avoided change after my dad died. Some part of my brain was convinced that I had to be the same person I was before he died. The person that - if he saw me - he’d recognize me instantly. Physically and mentally. It’s been years since he died, though, and change has been inevitable, even when I still avoided it. While that fear of changing myself has gone away, seeing the world change so much over the past year has brought back some of those feelings. I hate the fact that, if Dad came back right now and walked around where he used to live, he would barely recognize it. The world he left is completely different than the world I’m living in right now. Something I’ve started reminding myself is that change is going to happen no matter what. Even if this pandemic didn’t happen, the world would have eventually have changed a lot. Change is scary, especially when you’re experiencing it without someone you love, but it has to happen. When it feels like the world is changing a lot, I sometimes talk to my dad. When I’m driving, trying to fall asleep, or doing something important, I fill him in on my life. Sometimes these little “updates” are as little as me cutting my hair or as big as the pandemic. Even though I’m not actually having a conversation with him, it helps me feel like I’m not leaving him behind, and he’s still a big part of my life. I got past my fear of changing myself, so I know I’ll get past the fear of the world-changing, too. Coming up with little ways of coping, like talking to him, helps a lot. We can all get through this. Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter @natalieladams.
- Teen Grief Heroes
Maybe all of us grieving teens are heroes, just not the type you read about in books. Why do all teenage heroes have to be orphans? Harry Potter, Wade Watts, both heroes, both orphans. That’s the beginning of a story I started before my dad died. It was about a heroic teenager who wasn’t an orphan. I don’t really remember anything else about it besides that. It’s always fascinated me how many writers have their heroes be orphans. Something about childhood trauma and a lack of parental guidance seems to turn fictional characters into unstoppable heroes. Let’s take Harry Potter for example. Harry was orphaned as a baby, had a rough childhood, was shipped away to school when he was 11, and somehow became one of the biggest heroes in the wizarding world. Before my dad died, that didn’t seem too surprising to me. Harry’s rough childhood probably made him more empathetic and having dead parents made him want to save other people. If his parents hadn’t died, he might not have had those qualities, and he wouldn’t have become a hero. Since Dad’s death, though, I’ve started to see it completely differently. I see an 11-year-old kid who may be starting to realize the full extent of his loss. A kid who suddenly has his whole life changed when he finds out he’s a wizard and going to boarding school- with the only other big life change being when his parents died and he moved in with his aunt and uncle. Someone who is going through one of the worst things that could happen to a kid. Compared to Harry, I’ve been pretty unproductive since my dad died. I’ve gone to school, made and lost a few friends, and started a website. None of that seems even close to being as heroic as the fictional characters I read about. But… couldn’t that stuff still be considered heroic? Yes, I haven’t saved the world like Harry, but there’s a reason that he’s called a fictional character. Maybe, even though the small things I do every day while grieving don’t seem amazing to most people, they still are. I didn’t get accepted into a cool Wizarding school, but I worked hard to keep up in school after my dad died. I didn’t risk my life for my best friends, but I took care of myself when I needed to. I didn’t try to save the world, but I’ve tried to save myself. While all of these things would seem so little to Harry Potter, they’re really big to me. Maybe all of us grieving teens are heroes, just not the type you read about in books. The little things we do every day to keep going after the losses we’ve experienced are incredible, and it’s okay to think of them that way. I mean, when you’re grieving, the smallest things can seem like the biggest battles, and when you win a battle, aren’t you considered a hero? Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter @natalieladams.
- Tips for Sharing Your Grief
Tips for sharing your story with a friend or on Teenage Grief Sucks. I started writing articles for Teenage Grief Sucks almost a year before it was released. At the time, I felt comfortable sharing all of my thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper, but on the day I released this website, I started panicking. What if people judge me? Why was I so vulnerable? Was this all a mistake? That day, part of me wanted to not release it. To call TGS another failed project of mine, and never think about it again. But I didn't listen to that part of me. Instead, I went through my articles, removing some details and stories I wasn't comfortable with sharing online, and then released my website. Sharing my grief has been much more complex than I expected. I never thought I'd have to decide what parts of my story to share, who to tell it to, and that I wouldn't always get positive reactions. Even with that, though, I've never regretted sharing it. Whether you're sharing your story with a friend or on our website, it can seem really scary at first. It actually isn't usually as bad as you may think, though. This article gives advice for sharing your grief with friends and on the Internet. After reading this, if you feel comfortable, I'd love to share your grief on Teenage Grief Sucks. Click here to learn more. Tips for Sharing Your Grief with Friends 1. Figure out what you're comfortable sharing beforehand. You never have to share more than you're comfortable with. Try imagining yourself telling someone your story, and see what bothers you to say. It's okay to wait to share some of your story - or just not talk about it with certain people. 2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It's okay to share complex emotions with people and admit that you may not be okay. 3. Write it all out beforehand. If you haven't told your story before, it may be difficult to figure out how to share it. Writing it all out can help you decide how you want to share your story, and what you do and don't want to mention. 4. Write key parts down. If there are details that you don't want to forget, be sure to write them down on your phone or a piece of paper. That way, if you get stuck while telling your story, you can reference this to remember what to say. 5. Practice! Beforehand, figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. It's a lot easier to talk about something once you've done this. 6. Talk individually with a person. This eliminates distractions, may make you feel more comfortable, and makes sure that your friend is completely focused on you. 7. Know that, just because someone reacts negatively, doesn't mean that everyone will. Some people just don't get grief. However, there are people who do. If someone reacts negatively to you sharing your story, chances are they just don't know a lot about grief, and it has nothing to do with you. Tips for Sharing Your Grief Online 1. Read other TGS articles if you want ideas about how to format your story (but you don't have to format it that way). 2. Your first draft may not be your final draft. I usually write two or three drafts before publishing an article. The first draft is just me rambling about an idea I had, the second is removing extra details that I don't need, and the third is editing it. Just start writing, and don't worry about your first draft being perfect. 3. Have people read your story before you send it in. This can ensure that you're okay with people knowing the information in it and that it makes sense. 4. Choose a story that you're comfortable with sharing. If you're unsure about publishing something online, don't. It's okay if you're not ready to share some details with the world yet. 5. Use Grammarly if you need grammar help. If you're comfortable, we'd love to hear your story. To share your grief on Teenage Grief Sucks, click here. Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter @natalieladams.
- Grief Out Loud - Love Stories Episode
Love Stories - A Griefy Valentine's Special The Grief Out Loud podcast did a Valentine's Day special this year centered around love stories between grievers and their "person." I was lucky enough to be one of the people invited to share their story for this episode. This is a really good episode, and I hope you'll take some time to listen to it. Click here to listen to Grief Out Loud's "A Griefy Valentine's Special." Episode description: "Even if you don't really celebrate it, Valentine's Day can be rough when you're grieving. This year, we decided to bring you a compilation of love stories from listeners answering one of these questions: How did your person love you? How did you love your person? How did you fall in love? Even though Valentine's Day is usually marketed as only about romantic love, this episode focuses on the love that exists in any connection. The idea for this episode came out of our conversation with Alesia Alexander, LCSW in Episode 162. Alesia and her daughter, Kahlo, join us to talk more about why love stories are important in grief, especially for children and teens. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this special episode! Hear more from Alesia in When the Professional Becomes Personal."