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One of my characters (Adelaide) is going to suffer the loss of her father. Obviously for a 13 year old, losing one of your parents is one of the hardest things she could go through.

Now, I haven't gone through all of my teenage years (really, I've just begun them) or lost anyone that I was close to; I'm going to need some advice from you all. What would you say would be her reactions throughout her grieving process? Also, do you think that there is a right and wrong way to grieve?

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I don't believe there is any moral quality attached to grieving--it's inevitable. Sooner or later, if you live long enough, you'll lose everyone close to you. However, there are healthy ways to grieve that lead to healing, and unhealthy ways that lead to depression and hopelessness.

 

Anger is a common reaction to devastating loss, so is fear, so is depression. I honestly think this kind of loss would be very hard to write about convincingly unless you'd experienced something similar, (and even then it wouldn't be easy) but that's not to say you can't do it. With help, and thought, and prayer, I'm sure you can.

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When you don't have the experience, you do research. This would be a good place to start. (There are other books on grief, but this is a classic.)

 

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss

by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

Have you lost a pet? That's a beginning. Losing a parent multiplies it by about a thousand, if the parent was loving and kind.

 

Another factor is Adelaide's personality. How does she view the world before the loss? That will make a difference.

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In my experience, people tend to grieve in much the same way that they do everything else. Is Adelaide quiet and withdrawn, then that would probably be amplified as she withdraws into herself for reflection and to deal with her pain. If she is outgoing, then there might be outbursts as she lashes out and reaches for those around her who she finds comfort in.

 

It's not a hard and fast rule, of course. I don't think there is anyone who wouldn't accept any kind of grief from any kind of character, because grief is soooo personal.

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@carolinamtne No, I haven't lost a pet before; that's due to the fact that the landlord doesn't accept dogs and I never got the hermit crab my dad said he would get me when I was seven.

And my parents have no interest in cats or the like.

Edited by Ky_GirlatHeart
Had to change who I was adding to this message.
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When my mom died (I was in my late 20s), it felt surreal.  If felt like their was a huge, gaping hole in my life.

 

I grieved for years.  Then I got over it, in time.  it took, roughly, a decade.

 

For a 13 year old, it'll feel twice as bad.  Plus there will be the innate fear that they are now on their own, in a sense, and are being thrust into a foreign world.  The certainty of their life is now over.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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Like a lot of people said, it will depend largely on her personality. If she's friendly and outgoing, she might put on a smiling facade of sunshine and rainbows so people won't worry about her or so she won't feel like a burden. If she is more reserved and quiet, she might hide it all behind a mask of calm indifference because she feels like she can't let anyone see her cry. Or she might go around lashing out at different people or blaming God or others for her father's death. If she's more emotional, she might cry a lot.

 

Just my take. :D

Edited by Sarah Daffy
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Here are some reactions you may consider.

 

  • Activities the girl used to do with her father that she can't do anymore without feeling sad, so she avoids them.
  • Places the girl used to go with her father that she won't go because it reminds her of her loss.
  • The opposite - obsession with doing activities and going places in hopes of feeling closer to her father, but it doesn't work
  • Guilt over not being able to keep a promise she made to her father. (When a kid, I promised my grandfather I would buy him a red sports car. He died before I was old enough to earn my own money.)
  • Searching for someone who would encourage her as her father once did to keep trying in an area she isn't very skilled and others tell her to give up, such as a sport, music, etc)
Edited by paulchernoch
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As someone mentioned above, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is a great place to start for the textbook answer to the grieving process. She had later work on the topic as well, and there are a lot of other more modern researchers on the topic that you'll easily be able to find. An important thing to remember about the five stages is that they don't necessarily happen in order, there aren't clean breaks or transitions between them, and they can have vastly different durations (some may be skipped entirely). 

 

Someone else pointed out that the character's base personality will define a lot of how they express grief. Personally, I experienced a lot of loss at that age, and I remember periods of being very withdrawn as well as feelings that I would describe as a mixture of anger and shame. And I certainly looked for 'replacements' for the roles those individuals had played in my life, although I wouldn't say I was consciously doing that with intent.

 

In addition to the textbook research, I'm willing to bet there are blogs where people have expressed their feelings. You could even go to classics like C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. Grief is a common human experience and there is no end to the stories and writings you'll find on it.

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I haven't experienced a lot of loss thus far in my life and I took that for granted before I met the woman who is now my wife.

She had lost several family members (grandparents, cousins, etc.) and pets when growing up and in the seven months I knew her before we married she lost her cat due to kidney failure, a friend due to suicide, and her father unexpectedly due to heart complications after an operation on his foot (two months before the scheduled date of our wedding). You'd expect that a person who had experienced as much death as she has would have developed some level of detachment or callousness toward death but she experiences each loss with every ounce of her being. I think this is an indication of the fearlessness with which she loves the people in her life.

We learned about her father's passing while we were on our way back to Michigan (where she and I currently live) from Florida (where she had just met my immediate family) when our plane touched down at the airport for our connecting flight. I am not sure I had ever seen someone "weep" before that. I have never seen anyone persevere under the burden of so much grief. 

The hardest part of that situation was that her father, to our knowledge, was not a believer. Knowing her and going through these things has forced me to learn about and take seriously a lot of things that had merely been abstractions before. Since then I have lost two people from my own life: the pastor of the church I attended here in Michigan and the pastor of the church I attended when I still lived in Florida. The sequence of these three deaths (her father and my two pastors has brought into sharp relief the truth that no man knows the day or the hour. Had I attempted to predict the order these three would have passed I would have guessed it to have been the exaxt opposite: the pastor of my church in Florida (the last to pass of these three) had been in hospice two times before I ever left Florida. He had lost most of his nose and the soft tissue around the roof of his mouth to subcutaneous leishmaniasis contracted when he was a missionary in Ecuador, used a ventilator, and looked frail as a skeleton. My Michigan pastor had congestive heart failure but it seemed under control for the most part and was reasonably healthy otherwise. Her father (the first of these three to pass) had diabetes which had resulted in a foot infection that needed to be operated on but seemed to be doing reasonably well the last time I had seen him. 

I'm not even sure if what I am relating at this point is even relvant to the topic question but to sumarize: life is a vapor, we don't know how long we have it, it is worth living it for God while we do even though loving people will make the pain we endure at their loss cut deeper. Also, Les Mis is a great movie/musical/book to remind oneself that the hope we have in Christ is greater than our present misery. And the only unhelpful way to mourn is to not mourn. We do not mourn without hope but to not mourn at all is to be as if the life no longer with us didn't really matter.

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On 11/19/2020 at 10:54 AM, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

One of my characters (Adelaide) is going to suffer the loss of her father. Obviously for a 13 year old, losing one of your parents is one of the hardest things she could go through.

Now, I haven't gone through all of my teenage years (really, I've just begun them) or lost anyone that I was close to; I'm going to need some advice from you all. What would you say would be her reactions throughout her grieving process? Also, do you think that there is a right and wrong way to grieve?

The grief stage mentioned by Chris is a good place to start to research grief.  I am a therapist who deals with grief all the time.  I have seen a lot of different examples.  After research and reading, if you would like to message me, I can give you more insight.  

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On 11/19/2020 at 3:54 PM, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

What would you say would be her reactions throughout her grieving process? Also, do you think that there is a right and wrong way to grieve?

 

I lost my mother at 13. I've been trying to think back to my reactions, but a lot of time has passed since then and I don't remember it all.

 

My very first thought when I heard the news was an irrational one. I was shocked that the anchors on the breakfast TV news show went right on talking as though nothing had happened. It hit me that the world was going right on as normal while mine was changed forever.

 

I cried a lot in the first days but I actually smiled a good deal at the funeral because of all the kind things people were saying. It hit me for the first time how many outstanding things my mother had achieved. To me she was just Mama but apparently she was a pioneer in her field and kind of a big deal. 😃 Hearing all that at the funeral made me feel proud of her. So, it's possible to have many emotions running at the same time.

 

Another thing is grief doesn't happen at once. You can be doing pretty okay and something entirely unexpected will trigger you and cause you to see yet another dimension of your loss.

 

I've lost a few other close family members and friends, and the hardest part is always after the funeral, after everyone has gone back to their regular lives and you're supposed to settle into a new normal with this massive gap. That's when people really need to step up and give support. It would be great if someone in your character's life recognises this.

 

The others on this thread have given you some great feedback. Your character's reactions would depend on a lot of things. For example:

  • Was the death sudden or had the parent being ill? (It's always a shock even if a loved one has been terminally ill, but there's still a difference)
  • Does she have a supportive family around her?
  • What does she believe about life after death?
  • Does she have siblings or family members who she feels she has to be "strong" for?
  • What's her personality like? Does she bottle things up or let it all hang out?
  • What was her last interaction with her father like? Pleasant? Unpleasant?

There's lots more I could say, but I'll end with this last point. There is no "wrong" way to grieve, but sometimes grief can lead people down a dark path. If your character blames herself or somebody else for her father's death, or gets consumed with a need to get revenge, for example, that can end up being harmful.

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She may join up with the wrong crowd to help with her grief.  It depends on her personality and social circle.  It also depends on how much comfort she receives from her mother and support from other siblings if she has any.

 

I know of someone who lost his mother around the same age and joined up with a gang as a way of coping.

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And each of those siblings will grieve differently, and depending on their age, not understand that others do not grieve the same way.

 

One thing I have noticed is that those who have a busy life, things to do, people to interact with, and such will come through in a more healthy manner than those who have "too much" time on their hands. Focusing inwardly only on the loss is hazardous for one's health. On the other hand, sometimes one has no control over those things.

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