Adolescents: the silent grievers?
When we think of school children, we generally have a perception of young, developing, fairly naive mini humans being shepherded by parents and instructed by teachers. We tend to envisage uniformed gaggles of animated, lively persons going about their childhood in a “normal” trajectory; a few growing pains but assuming a pleasant and straightforward path to adulthood.
But what about those that deviate from this pathway? Adolescents, flushed with the introduction of new hormones, curious and exploratory, who find themselves creating a new life, either deliberately or accidently. What if this new life then ceases to exist?
The teenage years are notoriously full of the trials and tribulations of vacillating between childhood and adulthood. The adjustment seemingly a roller coaster of emotional, hormonal and physical changes; some welcome, some not. Overlay pregnancy on to these changes and the landscape becomes more complicated with the interaction and negotiation of practical arrangements such as schoolwork, parental opinions, and medical appointments.
Imagine the additional complexity of loss after the death of the pregnancy. Whether forming, growing, or born, grief is a reality for many expectant potential parents, including adolescents. The formation of dreams about the future child, and their imagined life, can be powerful and very ‘real’. Whatever the cause of the death (including abortion), the premature cessation of life can be devastating for some, whatever their life stage. Additionally grief may not be present at the time of the event but can occur in adulthood, particularly in response to other reproductive events.
Unacknowledged grief can have adverse consequences. We need to be compassionate and understanding; providing unconditional support to those that need it. Society has a critical part to play in ensuring that adolescents who self-identify as bereaved parents have the same respect accorded to them either at the time of the event and/or later in life.