Adolescent Bereavement and Traumatic Deaths

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Adolescent traumatic bereavement is characterized by the interaction of traumatic loss with developmental tasks involving both differentiating from family and developing increased social support outside of the family. During the loss of a parent, for instance, these dynamics can create a unique experience of desiring independence from parents while simultaneously mourning the loss of a parent. The violent nature of a death can further complicate the bereavement experience. The purpose of this chapter is to review issues related to adolescent bereavement and traumatic death, with special attention afforded to the risks of complicated grief. The chapter will discuss (a) the challenges specific to traumatic death, (b) traumatic death within the developmental stages of adolescence, (c) grief challenges nested within specific relationships to decedents and types of traumatic losses, and (d) review of available literature on successful therapeutic approaches to treatment of adolescent traumatic grief. Throughout the chapter, the terms “complicated grief” and “prolonged grief disorder” are used interchangeably.


Contribution to a book: Adolescent Encounters with Death, Bereavement, and Coping