Although the circumstances surrounding a death are difficult to handle at any age, adolescence brings with it challenges and struggles that until now have been largely overlooked.
Writing not only about but also for teenagers, Fitzgerald adeptly covers the entire range of situations in which teens may find themselves grieving a death, whether the cause was old age, terminal illness, school violence, or suicide. She helps teens address the gamut of strong and difficult emotions they will experience and the new situations they will face, including family changes, issues with friends, problems at school, and the courage needed to move forward with one's own life.
Using the clear and accessible format that has made The Mourning Handbook and The Grieving Child enduring and helpful classics, Fitzgerald guides teens through everything from the sickbed to the funeral, from the first day back at school to the first anniversary of the death. Above all, she lets teens know that even in their darkest hour, they are not alone.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
In an earlier book, I wrote about a fifteen-year-old named Laura, whose unhappy situation as a young person whose needs were ignored continues to haunt me, for stories like hers remain largely unaddressed in the many books that have been written about death and dying. What Laura's story represents is the young person set somehow adrift by the illness or death of a loved one -- not intentionally, of course, but set adrift nonetheless. As Laura cried out in that story, "I'm hurting, too."
Today, it seems that there are more than a few Lauras out there, shattered and set adrift by the violence that has become almost commonplace in our country. I think of the friends and classmates, sisters and brothers whose lives were changed forever by crazed gunmen at places like Columbine High School in Colorado, Heath High School in Georgia, or Thurston High School in Oregon -- places once distant but now strangely united in tragedy. And I think of all those who have lost relatives and friends through accidents, illness, and self-inflicted wounds. It is for you, the Lauras or Bills or Elizabeths -- teenagers whose lives have been caught up in personal tragedy, who have been alienated even from grieving loved ones -- that I have written this book. Teenagers -- I almost recoil at using the word because it seems to lump everyone between thirteen and nineteen into a single group -- often find themselves in the same role as Laura. Somehow, at a time when these emerging adults are just learning who they are, the adults around them might be equally uncertain as to how to deal with them. The result can come across as indifference, and it can be very painful and isolating.
Also, sad to state, genuine conflicts arise in families, pitting siblings against one another, or parents against children. Not every feeling of alienation is based on misunderstanding: sometimes parents really are unfair; sometimes siblings really intend to make your life miserable.
Is this the way you're feeling? If it is, let me see if I can refine it a bit. Someone you love has died or is dying. It may be your father or mother, brother or sister, grandparent, close friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend. It is someone whose life was a part of your life, whose dreams and aspirations were, to some extent, your dreams and aspirations. And that person's death or expected death is having a devastating effect on you and your own pursuit of a meaningful life.
Let's go further. You are finding that your family seems to have no time for you, that your suffering is being ignored, that everything about your life seems bent out of shape, that you have had to abandon things that were important to you, that your very sense of identity has been shaken, and yet nobody -- even your best friends -- seems to care. Does any of that hit the mark?
Are you feeling ashamed because of your changed circumstance? Stigmatized? Excluded from things that you were once part of? Made to assume a new role or roles that you are not comfortable with?
Growing up is pretty much a full-time job. You start out as a child dependent on parents for everything. You end up as an adult, fully independent, capable of becoming a parent yourself. It's a big change, and it doesn't happen overnight. Legally, you may still be classified as a child, but as each day passes, you are that much more of a complete adult. Your thoughts and opinions are important, and so are your feelings. They won't suddenly become important the day you turn twenty or twenty-one; they're important now. If someone you love has died, or is dying, your thoughts and feelings are just as legitimate and just as important as those of any of the adults around you.
So what are you thinking at this moment? And how are you feeling?
Much as we would like to believe that the right upbringing, good behavior, diligence, careful planning, and hard work earn a person happiness, it doesn't work that way. Life can bring rude surprises, shocking and painful losses for which there is no adequate preparation. If this describes what has happened to you, I can only say that it's OK to be bitter, it's OK to be angry, and it's OK to wonder what the heck life is all about. I have been there.
When my first husband died, I had two teenage daughters and two younger children. Looking back, I realize that they felt far more deeply about their father's illness and death, and about the attention or lack of attention that they were getting, than I perceived in that trying time. I know that my teenage daughters had new roles -- especially meal preparation and housecleaning -- thrust on them when I entered the workplace for the first time to replace some of my dying husband's lost income. Even so, I was like a lot of parents today who somehow assume that their children -- even the older ones -- are incapable of handling bad news, limiting them to shorthand summaries yet expecting them to adjust to painful changes in their lives. And I was like all those parents who are so caught up in their own impossible webs of mounting concerns that they fail to feel or fully understand the terrible pain and confusion being experienced by their children. I wish now that I had had a better understanding of what was happening to my own and that, in addition, they would have had a book like this to turn to. That's why I have written this book. I would like to help you express your great sadness and loss and in time to find new meaning and direction for your life.
As a mother and grandmother, I don't pretend to know all there is to know about the life of a teenager today. I certainly don't know about your specific life. But I have helped many young people in the course of my work in a community grief program, and I vividly remember what it was like to be a teenager. It was a great time in my life, but it was also a time when I was filled with much uncertainty about the future, because my parents saw no need for me to go to college. If my future husband hadn't shown up at our farm to buy a dog, I might have married and remained in that town for the rest of my life. That would have been all right, but by venturing out into the world, I have had opportunities that I would not have had there, such as the work that I have been doing for the last twenty-two years: helping people like you. Fortunately, no one close to me died while I was growing up. My children were not so lucky. And you may not be so lucky either.
I have learned a lot about teenagers from teenagers. Sharing with me the confusion they are experiencing, the bitterness and resentment they sometimes feel toward their parents, the longing for a return to the way things were before illness or death struck, they have made me aware that losses inflicted on a person at this time of life can be particularly devastating. In spite of this, most of these same young people have been able to rebuild their lives over time, and their stories might help you do the same.
Like my other books, this one is organized to help you find the help you need when you need it. The table of contents, index, and cross-reference system will steer you to help on whatever is hurting the most. Later, you can return to the beginning and read it as you would any other book. I have found that this kind of organization has been very helpful to my readers, and I hope that this will be true for you as well.
Copyright © 2000 by Helen Fitzgerald
Table of Contents
FOREWORD BY EARL A. GROLLMAN
CHAPTER 1: WHEN LIFE HANGS IN THE BALANCE
1. NOT KNOWING IF YOU WANT TO KNOW
2. REACTING TO THE NEWS
3. SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR FRIENDS?
4. SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR TEACHERS?
5. ARE YOU THE REAL PARENT?
6. YOUR SOCIAL LIFE
7. WHO ELSE CAN YOU TALK TO?
8. SUPPORT GROUPS
9. THE HOSPICE MOVEMENT
10. FEELING SCARED
11. HOSPITAL VISITS
12. THE $64,000 QUESTION: AM I GOING TO DIE?
13. HELPING YOUR SIBLINGS
14. FEELING ANGRY
15. SAYING GOOD-BYE
16. SHOWING THAT YOU CARE
CHAPTER 2: WHEN DEATH COMES
17. DISCOVERING THE BODY
18. DO I WANT TO BE THERE WHEN HE DIES?
19. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
20. WHAT IS DEATH LIKE FOR THE DYING PERSON?
21. WHAT DOES A DEAD BODY LOOK OR FEEL LIKE?
22. WHY AM I SO WEAK AND JITTERY?
23. WHEN DEATH IS SUDDEN
24. HOW YOU FOUND OUT
25. I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED
26. NO TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE
27. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE DETAILS?
28. FLASHBACKS OR NIGHTMARES
29. WHEN YOU CAN'T CRY
CHAPTER 3: FUNERALS, FORMALITIES, AND FAREWELLS
30. WHY DO WE HAVE FUNERALS?
31. BUT WHAT IF IT HURTS TOO MUCH?
32. HELPING YOURSELF BY GETTING INVOLVED
33. THE VIEWING, VISITATION, OR WAKE
34. SITTING SHIVA
35. MEMORIAL SERVICES
36. THE BURIAL SERVICE
37. VISITING THE GRAVE
39. THE HEADSTONE
CHAPTER 4: UNDERSTANDING YOUR GRIEF
40. WHAT IS GRIEF? WHAT IS MOURNING?
41. HOW LONG IS GRIEF?
42. AM I NORMAL?
43. WHO AM I? I FEEL DIFFERENT
44. I CAN'T SLEEP
45. WHAT ABOUT DREAMS?
46. I CAN'T EAT
47. I CAN'T REMEMBER ANYTHING
48. I CAN'T CONCENTRATE
49. CLOSE CALLS WHILE DRIVING
50. RESPONSES TO EXPECTED VERSUS SUDDEN DEATH
51. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL AFFECT YOUR GRIEF
CHAPTER 5: UNDERSTANDING YOUR FEELINGS
52. SHOCK AND DISBELIEF
53. DENIAL: I WON'T ACCEPT THIS
54. ANGER: LIFE STINKS; IT'S NOT FAIR
55. GUILT AND REGRETS
56. DEPRESSION: I AM TOO SAD TO MOVE
57. I WANT TO DIE, TOO
58. FEARS AND WORRIES: I HAVE SO MANY CONCERNS
59. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
CHAPTER 6: ON RESUMING YOUR LIFE
60. HOW BEST TO ANNOUNCE THE NEWS
61. YOUR FIRST DAY BACK
62. YOUR GRADES
63. YOUR HOMEWORK
64. HELPING YOUR FRIENDS HELP YOU
65. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SEE A COUNSELOR?
66. MANAGING YOUR STRESS
CHAPTER 7: WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO HARD?
67. POSTPONING GRIEF
68. REMINDERS OF YOUR LOSS
69. IS IT OK TO ASK FOR KEEPSAKES?
70. WHEN DEATH COMES AT A REALLY BAD TIME
71. WHEN MORE THAN ONE PERSON HAS DIED
72. WHEN YOU CAN'T ATTEND THE FUNERAL
73. DEALING WITH THE PRESS
74. THE DEATH OF SOMEONE FAMOUS
75. HOLIDAYS, BIRTHDAYS, AND ANNIVERSARIES
76. DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES
77. TRICKS OF THE MIND
CHAPTER 8: TIGHTENING THE SCREWS
78. IF YOU WITNESSED THE DEATH
79. SURVIVOR GUILT: I SHOULD HAVE DIED INSTEAD
80. I CAUSED THE DEATH
81. SECRETS DISCOVERED AFTER A DEATH
82. DEALING WITH SUICIDE
83. MY BROTHER DIED OF AIDS
84. DEALING WITH MURDER
85. WHAT IS POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)?
CHAPTER 9: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR ME?
86. WHAT IF MY PARENT STARTS DATING?
87. MAYBE SOME GUY WILL TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY MOM
88. MOM IS GETTING MORE CALLS FOR DATES THAN I AM
89. I HAVE A CRUSH ON THE GUY WHO MOM IS DATING
90. I FEEL DISLOYAL TO MY MOM
91. MY DAD IS GETTING MARRIED
92. LIVING WITH A STEPPARENT
93. WILL I EVER BE HAPPY AGAIN?
94. HOW DO I KNOW THAT I AM GETTING BETTER?
CHAPTER 10: TEENS AND THEIR SECRETS
CHAPTER 11: WHAT FRIENDS CAN DO
100. SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED?
101. PRACTICAL HELP YOU CAN PROVIDE
102. WHAT DO YOU TELL OTHER PEOPLE?
103. RELAYING WORD TO THE SCHOOL
104. KEEP AN EYE ON HOW YOUR FRIEND IS COPING
105. WHAT CAN YOU DO IF IT WAS YOUR FRIEND WHO DIED?
106. SECRETS TOO BIG TO HANDLE
107. DON'T GET INTO A SORROW COMPETITION
108. ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT SAYING SOMETHING STUPID?
109. OTHER THINGS TO AVOID
110. SOME GOOD THINGS TO SAY AND DO
111. BEING A FRIEND CARRIES RESPONSIBILITIES
CHAPTER 12: IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
RESOURCE LIST: HELPFUL BOOKS AND WEB SITES
OTHER BOOKS ON TEEN GRIEF
WEB SITES ON GRIEF
WEB SITES WITH INFORMATION ABOUT FUNERAL PRACTICES IN VARIOUS FAITHS