Written by Chris Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00
Losing a loved one is always painful, but it takes an especially acute toll on teenagers, who are emotionally vulnerable as they struggle to come to grips with life’s countless challenges. Teens are liable to suppress grief – only to have the unresolved pain erupt years later.
Massapequa resident Luciano Sabatini, author of the recently published Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting, is hoping his new book, which draws upon his years of experience in working first-hand with kids in crisis, will help caretakers understand the grieving process of young adults so they can more effectively address these issues.
“Teens grieve differently than adults,” he explained. “We can’t judge them because they’re not grieving like an adult.”
Most adults aren’t equipped to help teens grieve appropriately; they may not be able to grieve themselves. “We live in a death-phobic society,” Sabatini said. “When you look on television, you see people looking good and having a good time; there’s a focus on that. But there’s very little death education.”
Starting his career as a teacher, Sabatini transitioned to guidance counselor and later took on more administrative roles in various Long Island districts. He spent the last five years of his career as Director of Guidance for Massapequa schools, before retiring in 2010.
Although it wasn’t his main profession, Sabatini has long worked as a bereavement counselor “on the side.” About 20 years ago, he says, his work with adults drew him into the world of grieving children, starting support groups for teens who have lost loved ones – a parent, a sibling, or someone else. The support groups, Sabatini said, bring together kids with a common life experience so they can talk about their losses and learn coping mechanisms from each other.
“The focus of the groups is to teach teens what grief is and how it affects you,” he said. “How to deal with it, negotiating sensitive situations, and adjusting to a world without your loved one.”
One of the draws to helping teens is the fact that, for many young people, the process of bereavement is far different than it is for an adult – and they need more help. For example, the support many grown-ups crave at such a time is typically spurned by teens, Sabatini said.
“Oftentimes, when a teen suffers the death of a parent, they don’t want a lot of attention at school, but unfortunately, they get it,” he said. “The kids that I’ve worked with have said that it’s a private matter, and they don’t like all the attention. Teenagers do not like to stand out or be different from their peers.”
Rather than confront the grief, many teens tend to internalize it, only to have it surface years later in what Sabatini calls a “delayed grief reaction.” In addition, he said that the death of a loved one can shake the sense of invulnerability that most young adults possess, giving birth to feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.
After retiring and noticing a dearth of information in general about bereavement counseling as it pertains to teenagers, Sabatini took it upon himself to pen what he hopes will be considered a definitive and helpful tome on the subject.
“I’ve learned so much from these kids in the years that I’ve worked with them,” he said. “All of this knowledge that I’ve accumulated, I wanted to put it in a book so that counselors and social workers can use it as a reference.”
Sabatini hopes that Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting, published in January 2013, will help society understand the unique stresses that losing a friend or loved one can have on young people.
“We’re death illiterate, and as a result, kids don’t have adults who are death-savvy to help them with grief,” he explains. “The importance of this book is to make people aware of what a grieving teenager goes through.”
Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting is available on Amazon.com and through Sabatini’s website, www.empoweringthebereaved.com.