Losing My Mother
by Joseph Iudica
Many teens report that their mother is the most significant influence in their lives. My case is not that different. My mother greatly influenced my life through the way she lived, but even more so through the way she died.
Even while dying, my mother lived. In her deepest pain, she experienced joy in being with my father, my two sisters and me. Her desire to be a mother everyday, first and foremost, was a living, breathing lesson of love and parenting. Our last Christmas together gave me a picture of her strength that is forever ingrained in my mind. Even though her body was weak and her pain was visible, she smiled and celebrated. In her death, she brought my family together. We grew closer because of our combined loss and learned to lean on one another when times were tough.
My mother taught me that family comes first and matters most. Material possessions can be replaced, but loved ones are irreplaceable. For nearly four years, my mother battled with brain cancer. She endured multiple surgeries and painful treatments. Willing to do whatever it took to fight her cancer, she traveled long distances to receive treatment. My mother did all of this with a smile on her face, hiding the pain from her loved ones. When doctors told her she would never walk again after surgery, she proved them wrong, taking her first steps within two weeks. Her drive and determination compels me never to give up and always to try my hardest.
My mother’s memory lives in me today. I am frequently reminded of her perseverance when I am exhausted and want to stop studying for an exam or stop running in a soccer game. When I want to give up, I envision my mom’s grace and stoicism during her painful battle, and I am filled with strength and determination to finish what I started.
My mother’s illness and death has had a lasting impact on my family and me. We have grown much closer as a family and have found closure through each other. As an individual, I have grown into a mature young man. The trials I have lived through have tested my strength and resiliency. If my mother were still alive today, my goal would be to make her proud of me. But somehow, I know in my heart, she already is.
How Do I Help My Grieving Teen?By Laura Serazin, MA, ATR, CTC, Children’s Program Coordinator, Cornerstone of Hope Bereavement Center
Over the years I have received many calls from concerned parents about their grieving teens. They say things like, “He doesn’t cry,” or “Her grades have gone down,” or “He’s so angry.” Negative behaviors, signs of depression, or problems with school and sleep are common reactions amongst teens. The challenge is that although teens may look like adults, they are still developing their coping skills. Emotionally they react more like children than adults. When death occurs teens often find themselves feeling more like a child, but try to make others think they have everything under control.
Grieving teens need support at home and at school. It is typical for grades to go down for a semester and sometimes the first year. Even if teens are resistant to informing their teachers about their loss it is best to work with the school counselor or principal to inform the teachers. Your teen’s grief will most likely affect school work, grades and getting assignments completed on time. Teachers are often willing to work with students to extend deadlines or give extra help when needed. It is a good idea for parents to check in with their teens before grades take a drastic turn.
Educating teens about grief is also important. There are great books such as “Help for the Hard Times,” by Earl Hipp that explains what is normal for a grieving teen. This helps decrease their anxiety that there is something “wrong” with them. Sometimes grief groups are available at schools or through area grief centers or hospices. Individual counseling is also an option. If teens are resistant to grief counseling, encourage them to give it a try two or three times first. You may have to bribe them a little, but most often once they try it, they discover it is helpful and want to stay. If not, they may not be ready. Everyone has a different time table for their grief. Often teens postpone some of their grieving until they are more mature or have a more emotionally stable environment. Encourage them to find some way to let their feelings out. Writing poetry, journaling, art and music are all healthy ways to express their grief.