Teens today are facing multiple issues and pressures to deal with at home and school. This year, teens in multiple school districts have had to deal coping with the loss of a classmate through suicide or a car accident.
Today, the death of a student is known quicker through social media and the loss may last longer and have a more profound lingering affect because of a more public forum. There are strategies local high school counselors and youth ministers use to help kids cope with the death of friend or classmate.
"From a religious perspective, there is a community which includes your family unit and your friends," said Joe Frangos, youth and young adult ministries at Little Flower and St. Paul’s church. "Church leaders are here to listen. In these situations, kids need to verbalize. Schools are great at having assemblies; schools are not great at letting our teens talk. Teens need to feel the world is not against them. For some kids, this process may take longer to come up."
North Canton City Schools School Psychologist Steve Fricke said in an email, "When a young person experiences the death of friend or loved one, each young person will be affected differently depending on his or her developmental level, cultural beliefs, personal characteristics, family situation and previous experiences. There are some strategies that can be helpful in supportive."
There are kids whose response to a tragedy is delayed.
"From a youth ministry perspective, when a tragedy occurs and we know our youth know the individual, we check in once or twice a week," said Frangos. "For instance, when Macie Behringer (from Lake High School) died in the car accident, we found some of her friends at school, activities she was in and then the youth ministry team divided the names to call and check in and see how the kids were doing.
"From a church viewpoint, pray about the loss; we mourn but never disappear. We find hope in Jesus. We never take our eyes off of the resurrection."
In times of easing the pain, social media can be hindrance.
"In my opinion, social media hinders the healing process," said Frangos. "Social media isolates us. It is a faux community. It shows us what we want the world to see about me. In one sense, it gives students a voice. But typically, when someone passes away, you grieve for two days, then the funeral. Social media then carries on the death so there is no escape from the tragedy."
Parents also play a part in helping their children grieve and move forward in the process.
"The best role of the parent is to make the home safe," said Frangos. "Love your child and make them feel wanted. Listen to your child. Teens have feelings. Teen’s feelings are not always rational. It is in the minute. Hormones are a big part with kids. You need to listen and respond. Go out with your kid and do a one-on-one dinner or ice cream. We also encourage parents to pray with their kids and for their needs. "
Finally, once the child has mourned, the child needs to move forward and find some happiness.
"Memories can reduce feelings of isolation and promote individual and collective grief resolution," wrote Fricke. "However, if the death was a suicide, professionals do not recommend public memorial gestures."
Fricke said ongoing support is recommended for children due to the post traumatic stress disorder or the anniversary effect.
"To move forward, kids need to acknowledge what happened," said Fricke. "They need to know it is OK to mourn. They need to seek professional help. Then they need to talk to parents and friends or youth minister and then maybe pray. In the Catholic church, you can offer a Mass for the deceased or do adoration."
Additional resources available are NAMI Stark County, which can be reached at 330-455-6644. It offers support groups on a regular basis.