VICTORIA CONTRERAS/Coachella Uninc
COACHELLA — Death. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
My experience with losing someone is difficult to describe. I lost my grandpa a little over two years ago. He was and always will be a second dad to me. He was there for all of my achievements and games. He encouraged me and helped me realize my potential.
He passed away in 2011, two days after Christmas. He was buried on New Year’s Day.
After he was gone, my family’s life changed. Everyone was on edge and sobbing for months. No one wanted to talk about what happened. Every time a memory was brought up we laughed then cried. The thing that hurts so much about losing someone close to you is the way it affects those around you. Everyone is in sorrow, and it’s hard to cope. When going through grief, you want comfort from those who are close to you. But whom do you turn to when everyone around you is in the same situation?
After my grandpa’s death, I fell into a depression that lasted for months. I didn’t know how to deal with my pain. I wanted to cry every day and be alone. But being alone was the worst possible outcome. Facing depression alone made things worse because that’s all that I felt…alone.
The following year, I didn’t look forward to the holidays. They felt unimportant to me. I still missed my grandpa so much and cried when I thought about him.
I had no idea how to cope with his absence. After I broke down in front of my mom she guided me to counseling. I never thought counseling could help. I thought counseling was getting advice from a total stranger. It was exactly what I needed: someone to talk to who wouldn’t judge, who would listen, and give sound advice. Eventually, I fought through my depression.
A couple years before my grandpa passed away, my grandma died from cancer. I remember how much grandpa used to cry for her. He missed her so much and wanted to be with her in heaven. He lost the person he loved the most, with whom he had spent over 50 years.
I finally realized that he was with his love, smiling down on me, and telling me he is happy! The hole in my heart began to fill again. I faced the next holiday season with a smile, knowing in my heart that my grandparents were happy. To me, that’s all that ever mattered.
The people we lose will never be gone. I picture my grandpa and grandma on the bleachers cheering for me during my games. I see them at my award ceremonies, and one day I will see them waving, smiling and crying at my graduation.
Support Groups Help Teens Cope with Loss
I’m not the only teenager that has gone through the pain of losing someone.
In 2007, Danielle Acosta lost her grandfather to suicide. She was on her way to visit him and never got a chance to say goodbye.
She found Grieving Teens, a program that helps young people cope with loss.
“I think this program helped me a lot because I was so emotional…just having someone to talk to, even if I didn’t trust them at first, just having someone there that has actually been through it themselves…was probably the biggest help,” she said. “This program is a good place, not only to speak to somebody, but it’s a good place to meet people that are in the same situation.”
Through the support group, Acosta found her passion for filmmaking.
“I actually found what I want to do in life while trying to cope… I searched in ways to escape, and I ended up finding film because it was a way to create different scenarios that weren’t actually happening, and that worked better than what I was going through.”
Tom Morris, executive director of Grieving Teens, says the support groups not only help youth cope with death, but also with losing loved ones to circumstances such as prison and divorce.
“In the grief support group, we go through a grieving process and…share our grief stories and how the grief that we all experience has affected [the students],” said Morris. “A lot of times, it’s the very significant relationships that causes the most pain in grief.”
Grieving Teens currently has support groups at Palm Desert, La Quinta, and Desert Hot Springs high schools.
They are currently not in the Eastern Coachella Valley, but Morris says they are open to going to any local high schools where students express interest.