Young People and the Grieving Process

John’s note — Julia Romito submitted this story to her JMC 26001 Multimedia Newswriting class in the Fall 2014 semester.  I am posting it here on my blog with her permission.


Julia Romito

Hormones, relationships, and homework cause high school to be a difficult time of every teenager’s life, but imagine how unbearable it becomes when a high school student also has to cope with the death of a close friend.

Suicide, cancer and car accidents are all in the top five causes of death in young people.  Different people deal with death in different ways, but everyone goes through the grieving process.

Laura Serazin, a grief counselor at the Cornerstone of Hope in Cleveland, OH, stated that the grieving process is divided into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

“Grief is the hardest work anyone will ever do,” said Serazin.

Serazin explained that, in her experience, her patients deny that the deceased is gone, become angry that he or she was taken from them, grow depressed and then eventually learn to live with the fact that the departed is gone forever.

“In reality, everyone’s grief is unique and everyone slips back and forth between the stages,” said Serazin.

Serazin also stated that adults and teens grieve differently, and she later added that teens grieve in doses. She said: “Their ability to tolerate intense emotion is more limited, so they need to shut down their emotions.  You may see them very upset one minute, and then, laughing or playing a little while later.”

Anthony Gill, 17, committed suicide on January 13, 2014. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people 15 to 24 years old, and results in approximately 4,600 deaths each year.

AnnaMarie Romito was friends with Gill since they were babies, and he was like a brother to her. Romito was dazed and wretched when she heard the news of his death.

“I immediately fell to the ground and couldn’t breathe, and I was screaming [and] crying,” said Romito.

Romito added that the most difficult part about losing Gill was not being able to talk to him anymore because he always helped her with her problems.

“Sometimes I feel like it still hasn’t hit me that he’s actually gone, and I still don’t want to accept the fact that he’s not here,” said Romito, indicating that she is still in denial regarding Gill’s death.

Cora Flemming, 18, died of osteosarcoma, which is a type of bone cancer, on May 5, 2013. Each year, approximately 800 new cases of osteosarcoma are diagnosed in the United States, and half of those cases are in children and teens.

Alex Cameron was friends with Flemming before and throughout her nine-month battle with the deadly disease, and he recalled that it was very emotional.

“I called [my friend] Haley and she told me that she [Cora] had died, and I just instantly started crying and hung up on her right away,” said Cameron.

Cameron later added that Flemming was positive about her cancer, and she did not feel she was going to die, which made losing her harder.

“I truly believed it was going to be fine because she believed that it was going to be fine,” said Cameron.

Cameron also mentioned that he has accepted Flemming’s death over the past year and a half. He said, “I just think that death is a really hard thing to accept, and it just takes time.”

Jeff Chaya, 18, was killed in a car accident along with three other teens on June 3, 2012. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, there are over 6,400 people 15 to 20 years old that are killed in car accidents every year.

Sobhit Haribhakti was friends with Chaya throughout all four years of high school, and he was in utter disbelief and devastation when he heard the news of Chaya’s death.

“I ran downstairs and started crying and yelling and screaming. It was one of the worst moments of my life,” recalled Haribhakti, with tears in his eyes.

Haribhakti also added that the hardest part about Chaya’s death was the untimeliness. He said, “I don’t think anyone should have to lose someone so close to them so early in their lives…He’s in a better place.”

Over the past two years, Haribhakti has come to accept Chaya’s death, but it was not an easy process. Haribhakti suffered through depression his first year of college, but he eventually overcame the sadness with the help of his friends and family.

“I can still hear his voice in my head, [and] all the memories are still living in my mind,” said Haribhakti.


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