During our teenage years, life changes drastically. Between school, home, friends, grades and the little things in between, life can seem so complicated. But what happens when a classmate dies? How are we supposed to deal with the way they died? How are we supposed to “deal” in general?
Grief is a personal experience that differs from person to person. Doing what feels right, rather than comparing displays of grief between other classmates, will ease the process over time.
Certain reactions to the loss can be expected, depending on some details: Was there any shock to the news? Were you very close with them? What was the cause of death (Suicide? A lengthy illness? A sudden accident?)?
Often, people going through a time like this will feel like they’ve lost their sense of time and space, and that the idea of death is incomprehensible. We might begin to think and fear that death is close for us too.
If suicide was involved, extra precautions may be necessary; it is common to have a series of suicides after one student does it. Students who express themselves freely (often through art) or seek guidance are far less likely to attempt suicide themselves.
After sudden tragedies, we may feel ‘if it happened to them, it can happen to me.’ For many, withdrawal, depression or anger will surface, but feeling and discussing these things should be encouraged rather than suppressed. Talking with a teacher or school counselor is a great option, since they can also provide other resources or avenues of support, and of course family and friends can be a tremendous help as well.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. What matters is not repressing feelings, taking one step at a time, and remembering that no reaction is a bad reaction.