Supporting Young People Following A Death

When a tragedy occurs we are often unsure how to support the younger members of our community. How do we help them cope? How do we give them the support they need?

Young people react the same way adults do. They may feel overwhelmed by intense emotions and not understand how to cope with these feelings.

  • Help them talk about the event. Let them know that it’s normal to feel worried or upset. Try to listen carefully and understand what they say.
  • It might be wise to limit the amount of media coverage on the event. Too much repeated coverage could heighten anxiety.
  • Encourage them to talk with friends and other important people in their life.

Ways To Support Young People Through Trauma

  • This may be the first time they have felt such grief. Feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and guilt if others have died are normal.
  • They may be afraid of their vulnerability and avoid talking.You may need to take the first step and bring up the subject.
  • If there has been a previous loss, it may bring up old pain. Take the time to reflect on what old emotions have re-emerged.
  • Encourage them to connect with friends instead of isolating themselves. Friends play an important role in supporting each other in times of need.
  • Encourage them to talk someone from the community that they can trust. This might be a teacher, counsellor, member of the clergy etc
  • Encourage them to express thoughts and feelings on paper. This can be helpful in releasing powerful emotions, disturbing thoughts, and feelings of grief.
  • Help them find comforting routines as a way to cope. Encourage them to listen to favourite music, go for a walk, play football, or watch a DVD.
  • Coping with a traumatic event takes time. Don’t assume they are ok or unaffected because they haven’t said anything.

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • Troubled sleep or frequent nightmares
  • Fear of going to school, going outside, or being left alone
  • Changes in behaviour (unusual quietness, unresponsiveness, or tiredness)
  • Angry outbursts, acting-out behaviour
  • Excessive crying
  • Headaches or stomach aches
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Change in appetite (increased or decreased)
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Spending more time than usual alone

Remember your local GP is there if you need to talk.

Useful Support Services

For more information check out www.unwindyourmind.wordpress.com and www.spunout.ie for tips from young people on what helps them feel better during times of stress.

Visit Talk Buncrana or UnwindYourMind Facebook pages for links to support services

www.RD4U.org.uk –  Online bereavement support service for young people

www.unwindyourmind.wordpress.com Support info and tips on dealing with stress

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