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Coping with Grief & Suicide

Dr. Greg Allen, Ph.D., LMFT

Coping with Grief

When coping with a death, you may go through all kinds of emotions. You may be sad, worried, or scared. You might be shocked, unprepared, or confused. You might be feeling angry, cheated, relieved, guilty, exhausted, or just plain empty. Your emotions might be stronger or deeper than usual or mixed together in ways you've never experienced before.

Some people find they have trouble concentrating, studying, sleeping, or eating when they're coping with a death. Others lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Some people lose themselves in playing computer games or eat or drink to excess. And some people feel numb, as if nothing has happened.  All of these are normal ways to react to a death.


When we have emotional, physical, and spiritual reactions in response to a death or loss, it's known as grief or grieving. People who are grieving might:


feel strong emotions, such as sadness and anger

have physical reactions, such as not sleeping or even waves of nausea

have spiritual reactions to a death — for example, some people find themselves questioning their beliefs and feeling disappointed in their religion while others find that they feel more strongly than ever about their faith


The grieving process takes time and healing usually happens gradually. The intensity of grief may be related to how sudden or predictable the loss was and how you felt about the person who died.


Some people write about grief happening in stages, but usually it feels more like "waves" or cycles of grief that come and go depending on what you are doing and if there are triggers for remembering the person who has died.


Just as people feel grief in many different ways, they handle it differently, too.  Some people reach out for support from others and find comfort in good memories. Others become very busy to take their minds off the loss. Some people become depressed and withdraw from their peers or go out of the way to avoid the places or situations that remind them of the person who has died.


For some people, it can help to talk about the loss with others. Some do this naturally and easily with friends and family, while others talk to a professional therapist. Some people may not feel like talking about it much at all because it's hard to find the words to express such deep and personal emotion or they wonder whether talking will make them feel the hurt more. This is fine, as long you find other ways to deal with your pain.


Excerpt information from:


Outside Resources:


Teen suicide is a very real problem in the United States. With many pressures and a variety emotional, social and family issues to confront, many teenagers find themselves having suicidal thoughts. Part of averting a teen suicide is being involved in your teen’s life and watching for teen suicide warning signs. It is also important to note that many of the teen suicide warning signs are also indications of depression.


Teen suicide warning signs:

It is important to take the warning signs of teen suicide seriously and to seek help if you thing that you know a teenager who might be suicidal. Here are some of the things to look for: 


    • Disinterest in favorite extracurricular activities 

    • Problems at work and losing interest in a job 

    • Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug (illegal and legal drugs) use

    • Behavioral problems 

    • Withdrawing from family and friends 

    • Sleep changes 

    • Changes in eating habits 

    • Begins to neglect hygiene and other matters of personal appearance 

    • Emotional distress brings on physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines) 

    • Hard time concentrating and paying attention 

    • Declining grades in school

    • Loss of interest in schoolwork 

    • Risk taking behaviors 

    • Complains more frequently of boredom 

    • Does not respond as before to praise


Not all of these teen suicide warning signs will be present in cases of possible teen suicide. There are many cases in which a good student commits suicide. It is important to watch for two or three signs as indications of depression, or even teen suicidal thoughts.


Teen suicide warning signs: indications of a suicide plan


There are some things that teens might do that could indicate that they are contemplating, or even planning, suicide. It is important that you make yourself aware of these actions, and use them as starting points to draw your teenager out and perhaps express what is bothering him or her. Here are some of the indications of a suicide plan: 


    • Actually says, “I’m thinking of committing suicide” or “I want to kill myself” or “I wish I could die.” 

    • There are also verbal hints that could indicate suicidal thoughts or plans. These include such phrases as: “I want you to know something, in case something happens to me” or “I won’t trouble you anymore.” 

    • Teenager begins giving away favorite belongings, or promising them to friends and family members.

    • Throws away important possessions.

    • Shows signs of extreme cheerfulness following periods of depression. 

    • Creates suicide notes. 

    • Expresses bizarre or unsettling thoughts on occasion.


Understanding that teen suicide warning signs are serious calls for help is important. Many teenagers share their thoughts and feelings in a desperate attempt to be acknowledged. In many cases, they don’t know how to deal with their feelings and problems and are looking for someone to help them find assistance. Acknowledging these warning signs and seeking help for the problem, and offering support to a teenager who is working through his or her issues is very important, and can help prevent suicide. Teen suicide is a very real danger, and heeding the warning signs can truly save a life.

If you are thinking of hurting yourself, or if you are concerned that someone else may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Excerpt information above from:


Outside Resources: health/suicide.html


National Institute of Mental Health ( is a Federal research agency. Its website features several publications for teens on suicide and depression, for example:



Trevor Project ( was established to promote acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning teens and to aid in suicide prevention among those youth. The Trevor Project website includes information about recognizing and responding to signs of suicide, and an e-mail advice feature. The Trevor Helpline, which can be reached at (866) 488-7386, is a 24-hour toll-free suicide hotline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth.

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