Teen Grief and Substance Abuse

August 30, 2019
Teen Grief and Substance Abuse

National Grief Awareness Day is August, 30 2019. It's a day we can use to recognize the reality of grief and how it affects our friends and loved ones. From a personal perspective I write this article with deep understanding because I am a licensed funeral director. Dealing with grieving families every day is my profession. And it's not an easy one.

The very nature of grief makes it difficult to talk about. It's incredibly personal and we all experience it differently. I'm here to tell you that it often hits teens and families of teenage overdose victims the hardest.

But the worst part of it is this: a single tragedy, like a teenage overdose and death, becomes a chain reaction among his or her friends and family. Seeking to cope with the pain of loss, friends and family self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. It becomes a pocket of grief epidemic. More children overdose, more parents get into drunk driving accidents injuring themselves and others. On and on the situation spirals out of control.

Helping Teens Cope With the Loss of a Friend to Overdose

When very elderly folks pass away, coping is easier for families. They even feel a sense of peace and relief. They'll express it by saying "she had a great long life" and "he lived such a full life".

We cannot say that about teenage overdose. No one can say "he lived his life to the fullest". All we can say is that his time was cut short, before he even had a chance to know what life was about.

If your child has lost a friend to overdose KNOW THAT YOUR CHILD IS AT GREAT RISK TOO. Most parents in this position feel utterly helpless. The only thing you can do is talk to your child. Family communication is the key. You won't know what to say. NO ONE DOES. Yet you must make the attempt.

Resources and Ice Breakers for Difficult Conversations

Talking to teens about grief is hard to do. Maybe you could sit with your arm around your child and show him or her some of these resources to get started:

Don't expect your teen to dive into your arms and cry, though they might. They may also just shrug you off and go to their room. The point is to make multiple attempts, and let them know you want to talk when they're ready. Sooner or later your child will come around.

At Niznik Behavioral Health we help teenagers and their families get through this difficult time. If your child is suffering with grief and self-medicating, don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you.

Jenna Nolan

Jenna Nolan is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Jenna enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.