Navigating Grief as a Young Adult

Image result for your heart is your compass

As the director of the Young Adult group at The WARM Place, I share a special kinship with the 19-25 year-olds grieving the loss of a loved one. I was 22 when my brother died. I remember vividly the day that my younger brother called me and asked me to come home as soon as possible. My older brother’s health was deteriorating quickly and my mom would not take him to the hospital. My brother pleaded with me to come and talk to our mom. He said I was the only one she might listen to. When I arrived, I was shocked by my brother’s state of health. He was an alcoholic, so jaundice had set in and his body was swelling. His organs were shutting down. I encouraged my mom to take my brother to the hospital. She was reluctant to take him because he told her he didn’t want to go. She wanted to honor his wishes. I had to find a way to persuade her to see otherwise. I asked my mom one of the most difficult questions. “If he dies tonight because you didn’t take him to the hospital, could you live with that?” My mom finally conceded. We got in the car and took him to the hospital together, as a family. Unfortunately, my brother never came home. His hospital stay stretched into a week and a half. I had a full-time job, attended college at night and visited the hospital when I could. I still remember getting the phone call at work when the decision was made to take my brother off life support. I left work and drove to the hospital in a haze.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever done; being in the room as he took his last breaths.

After my brother passed, I remember stepping into a care giver role for my mom. She wasn’t functioning anymore; she had just lost her first born child. I remember feeling concern for my mom when she went to my brother’s bedroom and lay on his bed for hours. I answered phone calls, greeted visitors and took care of my youngest brother. I took my brother shopping for clothes to wear to the funeral. I made phone calls to family members and friends. I had to “adult,” even though I really wasn’t feeling up to it. Grief has a way of throwing us into roles we may or may not be comfortable with or ready for, especially as young adults.

It has been 21 years since my brother died, but I still remember how differently the loss of my brother impacted me from previous losses I had experienced; partly because he was my brother and partly because of the unique life transitions I was experiencing.

Young adults are in a unique life stage, full of changes, new experiences and new responsibilities. Many juggle work, school, a new independence and life stress, all while being away from home, family and their usual support systems for the first time. Another unique challenge young adults face is the lack of appropriate services available for their particular age group. Many young adults that come to The WARM Place report having tried other adult grief support services, but say they were not able to relate to the experiences of a much older population who mostly lost their spouses.

Fortunately, The WARM Place recognizes the need to provide a separate service for this unique population. We provide grief support groups at no charge for young adults ages 19-25 who have experienced the death of a loved one. Our groups meet for an average of 8 weeks in the spring, 6 weeks in the summer and 8 weeks in the fall. Our Young Adult programs are purposefully scheduled to fit around most college school semesters. We provide a safe, supportive environment for young adults to work through their grief with their peers. Getting support from peers is critical during one of the most transformative periods of their lives.

As someone who experienced a significant death loss as a young adult, I can attest to the importance of such a program. It is truly a gift to be able to help provide a space for grieving young adults to meet, connect, and heal from the loss of a loved one.

Image result for teens working together

If you or someone you know might benefit from the Young Adult Grief Support Group at The WARM Place, please have them contact Teresa Bartnicki, M.A., LPC-Intern at (817) 870-2272, ext. 25 or teresa@thewarmplace.org. The next available Young Adult Group will meet from 7:00-8:30pm on Tuesdays for 8 consecutive weeks starting September 12, 2017. An intake appointment is required before anyone can attend the group.

Leave a Comment