What to Do for Youth Who Grieve
Dr. Bruce Narramore
When tragedy happens to a young person, it can be very difficult for their peers. The following thoughts are especially for youth leaders to help them help youth to come to terms with the loss and work through the grieving process.
First, realize that it’s going to take awhile for your young people to process their grief, and you realize it won’t be resolved simply through a few times of prayer and praise, or spiritual recommitment.
Second, I think what young people most need in times like this is a chance to talk and to be patiently heard and understood. You are in a wonderful place to do that, since as a pastor, they will experience your listening as God’s provision for them.
Third, as you listen, try to give your young people the freedom to express not only their loss but also memories of their experiences with their friends as well as their questioning —(How could God let this happen?), anger, confusion, or fear. It is important for them to be able to express every thought, feeling and question that they have.
Fourth, realize that many of the questions your young people raise will have no good answer—at least at this point. While it can sometimes be helpful to offer a biblical perspective; for example, that death—even “premature” death—is part of living in a fallen, sinful world, we should not use this potentially helpful explanation to try to encourage young people to prematurely stop the grieving process.
Fifth, offer spiritual reassurance. The Bible speaks of “the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (II Corinthians 1:4). And it says that we mourn, but not like those without hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). They can rest assured that they will eventually be reunited with their loved friend in eternity.
“Keep in mind that the grieving process generally goes on for many months, or a year or more.”
Sixth, I think it’s important to strike a balance in dealing with some of the renewed spiritual commitments that some of your young people may make at a time like this.
While God can wonderfully use spiritual recommitments that come out of tragedies, as Christian leaders, we should never try to manipulate young people into some kind of rededication in the middle of such tragedy.
Seventh, it is usually helpful for people who have suffered a tragic loss to get back into their regular routine of activities as soon as possible. This helps keep them centered and beginning to move on with their lives even as they are processing their grief.
Eighth, I would encourage you to have a memorial time some months, or even a year after this loss. That can help bring some partial closure, continue the grief process, and stimulate some integration of the whole experience into your young people’s lives in retrospect.
Ninth, an excellent book that I would recommend is Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy by Dr. William Worden, published by Springer Publications. While the author is a Christian, the book is not written to a specific Christian audience, yet it has some of the very best insights available on the process of grief and grief counseling.
Finally, it may also help to keep in mind that the grieving process generally goes on for many months, or a year or more—especially when we lose someone close to us. While we don’t need to talk about our loss every week, I would encourage you to be sensitive to any of your young people who are close to the one who passed away, but who do not seem to be talking about the loss or processing it at all. If, several months after the loss, they show signs of still not processing their grief (either by showing none or by being paralyzed with depression or anxiety, you may need to seek them out and encourage them to share their feelings or to receive some professional Christian counseling.
Dr. Bruce Narramore, Ph.D. is president of the Narramore Christian Foundation, well-known author, and founding dean of the Rosemead School of Psychology.
The above article, “What To Do For Youth Who Grieve,” is written by Dr. Bruce Narramore. The article was excerpted from www.ncfliving.org website in February of 2010.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”