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New grief support group helps Hamilton teens

New support group starts Feb. 2

Hamilton Mountain News (Jan 11, 2019)

A new support group has been started to help teens deal with the death of someone close to them.

In the natural course of events, a child would experience the passing of a grandparent before any other death, giving them some experience with grief. But that is often not the case, says facilitator Sharon Boase.

If they get the right support, the teen can heal and even experience positive growth from a grief experience.

But there are "precious few resources" available to support young people in dealing with suicide or accidental death of friends, premature death of parents and other unexpected losses, says Boase.

And without help, that grief can throw them right off their game emotionally, socially and academically.

"Almost inevitably, a death affecting a teenager is sudden, unexpected and or violent — a bad accident, a homicide, a suicide," says Boase. "With those types of losses, you run a greater risk of developing depression if you don't get the right supports."

"It's hard enough just being a teen."

Boase, a chaplain at St. Thomas More high school, is facilitating the group with Courtney McIntee of Friends in Grief.

Because the teen years are such a tumultuous time to begin with, the youth may not recognize they are having trouble dealing with the death. Quite often, says Boase, it a parent, teacher or other adult who sees the problem, which may manifest in lower grades, loss of interest in activities or change in mood, and understand they need help dealing with their grief.

"Unfortunately, unless your parent has a good job with benefits or can afford to send you to counselling, there's very little out there ... That's why I decided to get involved with Friends in Grief and get this group started, because it's needed."

Boase notes bereavement research shows that peer-based grief support is extremely helpful for teens coping with a significant loss through death. She notes:

• Bereaved teens who participated in a teen grief-support group were more likely to report feeling understood by peers (inside and outside the group) than bereaved teens who did not participate in a grief-support group;

• Participants reported being able to fully express emotions they had not been able to before attending the group and that their emotions were accepted and understood;

• Participants found fellow group members became a resource for each other;

• Participants reported learning more effective problem-solving skills.

The support group will run for eight weeks starting Feb. 2. It will be held at The Village of Wentworth Heights, 1620 Upper Wentworth St.

For more information or to sign up, call 905-928-8274.

New grief support group helps Hamilton teens