15-year-old, Winter Park High student, Roger Trinidade, dies after altercation with teens: 5 Tips to help teens cope with grief and loss.

On Saturday, October 15, 2016, 15-year-old, Roger Trinidade, died after an alleged altercation with some fellow Winter Park High School students. Roger was found unconscious in Central Park, off of Park Avenue, in Winter Park. Monday, Roger was taken off life support and passed away. An investigation into his death is ongoing. Autopsy and toxicology test results are pending. Our community is left stunned with so many unanswered questions. Parents are holding their children a little closer tonight, thinking: How could this have happened? What can we do to keep our children safe? How do we help our teens cope with the sudden, tragic loss of a peer?

Roger’s untimely death is a chilling reminder that as parents, we can only do so much to keep our children safe, and that the unexpected can happen at any time. This reminder can certainly trigger intense feelings of anxiety in parents. If you are having overwhelming anxiety that is interfering with your ability to function effectively, I encourage you to reach out to a counselor for help in managing your fears and restoring your sense of security. As difficult as these feelings may be for adults, children and teenagers are significantly less equipped and experienced in doing so.

Here are 5 tips to help your teen cope with feelings of grief and loss:

1). Understand that all teens grieve differently.

Some may grieve openly, outwardly and expressively, with evident displays of mourning, such as crying and verbally expressing feelings of grief. Others teens may grieve more inwardly, quietly and privately, by shutting down, withdrawing and isolating. While other teens may cope by going on with life-as-usual, perhaps denying the feelings altogether, or putting off mourning for a later time. It is important that we give our teens the space to grieve in a manner that works for them, free from expectations.

2). Monitor for Unhealthy Coping.

While we want to give our teens the space to grieve in their own way, we still need to make sure they are safe. As emotions go up, the ability to think clearly and rationally goes down. When our teens are upset, they may be in danger of making poor choices that could result in some negative consequences. Watch for unhealthy coping strategies such as abusing alcohol and drugs, reckless sexual behavior, skipping school, fighting, and increased risk-taking behaviors. All of these are attempts to numb the pain of loss. Monitor closely for any talk of self-harm or suicidal ideation. Contact Grief and Loss Counseling Services in Orlando for additional help, if needed.

3). Encourage Healthy Coping.

Encourage and model healthy strategies for managing strong emotions such as talking about feelings with a trusted friend or counselor, writing in a journal, creating an art project, yoga/prayer/meditation, spending time in nature, and performing community service.

4). Current loss may trigger old wounds.

The way teens cope with the loss of a peer will be influenced by their prior experiences with death. If a teen has experienced the loss of a grandparent, parent, relative or close friend in the past, these old feelings of loss may be rekindled. The grieving expressed then may be a combination of mourning for both the peer and the other loved ones lost. The teen may or may not be aware of the connection.

5).   Grief may come in waves.

Grief is not a linear process, and often looks like two steps forward and one step back. Don’t be surprised if your teen appears “fine” and happy one day, and down or depressed the next. Strong emotions tend to come in waves, allowing us much-needed periods of reprieve. Give your teen the space to feel what they are feeling, when they are feeling it, by creating a safe container of love, understanding, listening and support.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Trinidade family.

Source and Image Credit: NBC Miami

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AUTHOR: Dr. Leslie Hamilton, LMFT  – has a Ph.D in Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University and is an accomplished Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with anxiety, grief, couples, & parenting in Orlando!  If you are in need of Grief Counseling & Therapy Services, Dr. Leslie can be reached at (407) 248-0030