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Moving Forward with Grief
Grief is a universal human experience that affects people of all ages. However, grief can be particularly challenging for teenagers. Teenagers are at a developmental stage where they are becoming more independent and forming their own identities. They are also more likely to experience peer pressure and social isolation. These factors can make it difficult for teenagers to cope with grief in a healthy way.
As counselors it’s important to be able to help students cope with their grief and find a way to move forward with their lives. Today we’ll be discussing an analogy that can be used to help students visualize their grief journey. This analogy can be used in group work or individual counseling for a wide variety of ages.
You can create this activity on your own following the steps below, however, if you’re looking to save time you can download this grief activity on my Teacher Pay Teachers. The activity on my Teacher Pay Teachers provides detailed instructions, a list of 33 different feelings/behaviors associated with grief, a discussion guide, and a visual for this activity.
Feelings of Grief
One of the hardest things about grief is all of the difficult emotions/feelings associated with loss. I ask students to begin this activity by identifying some of the difficult emotions/feelings they’ve encountered since their loss. Sometimes it can be difficult for students to come up with the emotions/feelings on their own so you might want to have a list prepared in advance. For the purpose of today’s activity I like to tell students that each difficult feeling is like a brick. Every brick is heavy, but some bricks might be even heavier than others. Which bricks are the heaviest? Which bricks appear the most? Spend some time talking about these difficult bricks.
Two Ways to Deal with Grief
I’ve worked with grief a lot over the years and what I’ve found is that there are two main ways to deal with grief. Read the following script to students as you’re moving through this activity:
There are two ways people deal with grief. The first way people deal with grief is that they take the difficult feelings/emotions associated with grief and use it to build a brick wall. A wall that stops them from moving forward in the world and moving on with their life. Their consumed by their grief. They fail their classes, they stop hanging out with their friends, they give up on their dreams, they are constantly depressed, they turn to drugs/alcohol, etc.
The other way people deal with their grief is they pack up all of their difficult feelings/emotions and they carry it with them like a backpack. At first their backpack can feel really heavy because they’re carrying a lot. It’s like a bag of bricks! However, over time they’ll get stronger and it’ll be easier to carry that bag of bricks. And as they continue on their journey, they might even drop off some of those bricks along the way. They may no longer feel afraid or alone, making the backpack lighter. Carrying the backpack of grief isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work, but it allows people to move forward in life.
I then ask the students what they plan to do with their bricks? We talk about what bricks are creating a wall for them and what bricks they’ve learned to carry on their own? We talk about positive coping skills and continue working through this analogy. I enjoy this analogy because it provides them with a daily reminder as they pack their bags each and every class period.
Other Ways Counselors Can Help Grieving Students
There are a number of other things that counselors can do to help students move forward with their grief:
- Create a safe and supportive space for students to talk about their grief. Never underestimate the power of reflection and silence.
- Help students identify and understand their feelings.
- Normalize the grief experience and let students know that they are not alone. A great way to do this it to guide them through the stages of grief, which let’s them know that what they’re feeling is expected and normal considering what they’re going through.
- Teach students healthy coping skills for dealing with grief.
- Provide students with resources and support groups. My grief groups are probably the most powerful groups that I do at my school!
Additional Tips for Counselors
- Be aware of your own grief triggers. If you have experienced a loss in your own life, it is important to be aware of how this might affect your work with grieving students.
- Be patient and understanding. Grieving takes time, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
- Take care of yourself. Working with grieving students can be emotionally draining. It is important to take care of your own physical and mental health so that you can be there for your students.
Grief is a difficult process, but it is possible to heal. With time and support, students can learn to move forward and live fulfilling lives. Counselors play an important role in helping students to grieve in a healthy way and to find hope for the future.
I hope this blog post has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.