Addressing teens in a memorial for a difficult death

As a Funeral Celebrant who specializes in memorials for suicide and traumatic loss, I strive to be sensitive to the needs of grieving teens.  This may be their first experience with death. And difficult deaths are immensely hard for young people to understand and hold emotionally.

At a Celebration of Life memorial ceremony this summer for a teen who died as a result of a great tragedy, I addressed her friends directly as part of the ceremony.  It does not serve to ignore or brush over the feelings of teens. In fact, it is harmful. But must be done delicately.

Should you have the occasion to be in this situation, please reach out to a professional Celebrant, grief counselor, or your clergy in order to speak mindfully.  And feel free to make use of my words below excerpted from the memorial ceremony:

“I would like to invite you now to place your hand on the shoulder of the person next to you. I want to take this moment to address Cindy’s friends and schoolmates. (The kids all did this.)

Cindy’s passing may not feel quite real to you yet. You may feel be feeling any number of emotions: tremendous sadness… perhaps confusion. You do not have to experience these feelings alone. I know, as young people, you want to keep to yourselves sometimes. But grieving is not a ‘do it on your own’ thing. All the adults here will listen if you want to talk.

Adults, please raise your hands high so our young people can see them. And young people, look around you.

Raising of hands

In the days after the ceremony, find yourself a trusted parent, teacher, counselor, coach or any of the adults who raised their hands today so you can share your concerns and feelings in a safe way.

As part of your grieving, you can take action. You may want to join a cause meaningful to you in honour of your friend.  Speak Cindy’s name. Invite her mom and dad and brother to activities. Maybe you would like to write memories of Cindy in a letter or note to her family. You are special memory keepers of stories that they may not know and they would sure love to hear more about their daughter and sister.”

We included several lovely rituals that the entire gathered community participated in when it came time to close the ceremony.  The teens were very much a part of the ceremony. Their grief was given a place.

May this be helpful.

With heart,

Funeral Celebrant Michele Davidson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *