Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16. This year, my family faced hard times that I’m afraid my friends can’t really understand. My mom died three months ago after years of fighting breast cancer. I never told my friends about her illness because I didn’t want to be treated differently — and usually, Mom was fine. Now she’s gone and I can’t stop thinking about her. I used to be a good student but I can barely concentrate and am getting a lot of pressure to prepare for college. My dad always says I can talk with him, but I know he misses her, too, and I don’t want to make him sad. Will this pain ever end? Who can I talk to that will understand? — Hopeless in Orange County, Calif.
Peter, 26: My mom died when I was 16, too, also after years of illness. First, it’s OK to be sad. Second, it was hard to talk to my peers, too, as it made both them and me uncomfortable (not many at this age are good at this). So, I talked to my teachers and adult friends instead. Third, your dad is already sad. Whether or not he says it, he needs you as much as you need him. Talk to him. He’s worried about you. Also, he’s now trying to fill two roles. When my mom passed away, Dad — who I wasn’t that close with — suddenly was alone in the house with me with all these things to do. It was weird some days, but we ended up becoming each other’s confidants and now our relationship is amazing.
Regarding school, I coped by throwing myself headlong into it, actually becoming a great student. Mom’s death gave me new perspective on life, relationships, and what is and isn’t important.
Savannah, 19: See a grief therapist. It’s so important to process your feelings. Knowing you are getting help will lift some weight from your dad’s shoulders.
Sarah, 16: My grandma died recently. It was very emotional for my mom and her siblings. Having each other to talk to was really beneficial. I say talk to your dad. Even though it’s a sad subject, he needs someone to talk to, too. He may be the only one who knows what you are going through.
Dear Hopeless: Everyone heals differently and many your age simply can’t talk about it. I urge you to contact a grief counselor or grief support group. They have many verbal and nonverbal ways to process. Please don’t delay. Unaddressed grief is a key reason people seek addictions — which, honestly, just make the grief and inability to concentrate worse. Your mother wanted you to grow up strong and happy. Getting help is the best way to honor her life. — Lauren
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