Location

Savannah

Strand #1

Mental & Physical Health

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This presentation meets the topical criteria for both Strand IV – “HEALTH”: MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH and Strand II – “HEART”: SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL SKILLS, because it endeavors (1) to make educators and other youth workers aware of the various personally significant losses and associated grief that youths experience and to engage in supportive activities/interventions to promote loss-affected youths’ mental and physical health, and, by doing so, (2) to provide educators and other youth workers with information, skills, and resources to validate, support, and empower youths to process and psychologically accommodate the various losses and they will experience along their life journeys, helping them to recognize and access their own strengths and resilience as they potentially experience personal growth and derive meaning from their loss experiences.

Brief Program Description

As youths journey through life, they experience various personally significant losses and associated grief that can negatively impact their physical/mental health, developmental trajectory, and academic success. Framed in a broad-based perspective of loss, this presentation will acquaint participants with various loss-related constructs and events, potential associated physical, intellectual, emotional, and social effects of loss experiences, and supportive interventions and resources.

Summary

From the moment they are born, youths experience a range of personally significant losses along their life journeys, the attendant grief of which they experience and convey into various life contexts (e.g., home, school, community). A child’s or adolescent’s grief over a personally significant loss can stem from many causes other than a death (e.g., experiencing parental separation, divorce, illness, or imprisonment; moving to a new area and changing schools; dissolving an important friendship; being bullied or rejected by peers; breaking up with a romantic partner).

Youths who experience losses that result from different causes can manifest similar behavioral effects, including academic failure/apathy, acting out behaviors due to displaced anger, aggression, inappropriate risk-taking, running away, sexual promiscuity, and substance use. Also, children and adolescents carry their personal loss histories with them to school, and they (and the educators who work with them) may be unaware of the educational/psychosocial impact of various losses. According to the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, a youth’s reactions after a loss may include: (1) a decline in school performance; (2) difficulty mastering new academic material; (3) increased irritability, withdrawal, anxiety, and/or depression; (4) an increased probability of engaging in risk-taking behaviors (e.g., abuse of alcohol and other drugs, reckless driving, promiscuity, and suicidal ideation/attempts); and (5) focusing almost exclusively on the loss and neglecting almost everything else.

The learning goals of the presentation are to: (1) explicate a broad-based perspective on personally significant loss in the lives of children and adolescents; (2) differentiate the concepts of grief, mourning, and bereavement incident to loss; (3) review the realities, common misconceptions, developmental aspects, and potential psychosocial impacts of various losses for K–12 youths; (4) discuss proactive post-loss support activities and intervention methods with loss-affected youths; and (5) provide a listing of recommended loss- and grief-related print and online resources. Adults who provide informed, timely, and effective assistance to loss-affected youths are lights unto the darkness of their despair, safe harbors in their sea of grief, and advocates on their journeys from yesterday’s loss, through today’s grief, and toward tomorrow’s hope.

Evidence

With respect to effective interventions for loss-affected youths, validation of the loss, timely and genuine support, active listening and reflection, personal empowerment, and enduring compassion are paramount. Also, given the comfort levels of individual youths for specific activities through which to express their grief after a loss, it is important to have a variety of developmentally appropriate activities/opportunities in which to engage children and adolescents. Accordingly, loss-related support groups, individual and group-based psychological (therapeutic) interventions, and visual creative arts (drawing, painting), literary-based (bibliotherapy, journaling), and music-based activities have demonstrated varying degrees of clinical effectiveness with loss-affected youths.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Gary W. Mauk, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has worked at the K–12 level as a school psychologist. His research and consultation interests are child/adolescent development and mental health promotion, social-emotional learning supports, and understanding and support for loss and grief issues among school-age youths.

M. Bruce Garris, M.Ed., LPC, NCC, began a second career as an individual, group, and family therapist after 15-year career as a national-level trainer, Program and Executive Director with the YMCA in several cities across the country. His research and clinical interests involve adolescent wellness/ resilience, happiness, and the relationship between written and experiential education. Bruce is currently the Lead Therapist at Coastal Southeastern United Care, a CABHA agency, and maintains a private practice near Wilmington, NC.

Keyword Descriptors

Loss, Grief, Children, Adolescents, Schools, Support, Intervention

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

3-7-2016 1:15 PM

End Date

3-7-2016 2:30 PM

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Mar 7th, 1:15 PM Mar 7th, 2:30 PM

You Live, You Lose: Supporting Youths on Their Journeys in the Land of the Loss

Savannah

As youths journey through life, they experience various personally significant losses and associated grief that can negatively impact their physical/mental health, developmental trajectory, and academic success. Framed in a broad-based perspective of loss, this presentation will acquaint participants with various loss-related constructs and events, potential associated physical, intellectual, emotional, and social effects of loss experiences, and supportive interventions and resources.