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4Moms: Teens grieve the loss of loved ones in their own way

August 16, 2013|By Mary MacVean

Teenagers grieve the loss of loved ones in particular ways that reflect their sense of invincibility and their efforts to grow into adulthood, psychologist Moises Rodriguez said.

In another of a series of The Times parenting conversations called 4Moms, Rodriguez shared insights into the teenage perspective on loss and offered some ways parents can help them cope.

Teens, as they develop their own identities, might not be as close to their families as to their peers, said Rodriguez, who works in the division of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. If a grandparent dies, that could bring the teen closer to relatives as they mourn the loss. It also could arouse feelings of guilt.

"Having a sense of guilt can be a huge issue. There's a lot of pain or remorse," he said. "I wasn't around, my grandma used to call me, try to get ahold of me and perhaps there's no longer the opportunity to do that."

It can be very jarring for a teenager to lose a peer. They don't feel that bad things will happen to them, Rodriguez said, and they can be forced to consider their own mortality.

"It also depends on their world views and the environment that they live in and a sense of safety that they have. That can depend on the neighborhood that they live in and how many of their peers have passed away. Was it through violent means?" he said.

Rodriguez also talked about the role of religion, and offered some ways that parents can open an honest conversastion with their children.

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mary.macvean@latimes.com

Twitter: @mmacvean

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