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Teen Trauma Caused by Divorce, Family Break Ups and Other Losses

The Teen Trauma Caused by Divorce, Family Break Ups and Other Losses

Teen Trauma from Lost Relationships

One of the most traumatic experiences in life is loss and not just through death. How can you help your teen navigate loss resulting from divorce, break ups and other lost relationships?

During a traumatic event, you struggle just to get by with any sense of normalcy. That is not healing, it’s surviving. As a trauma survivor, you have to pursue a recovery path, and it won’t be an instant fix. But, there is hope, and you can recover.

For a teen or a child, surviving the Trauma of loss may be all they know how to do. Without healing, they will stay trapped in a place of survival. Until they are able to start a restorative journey of healing, they will stay in a place of fight or flight. This often results in self-harm or hurting others.

If your teen is going through loss or has Trauma from a past loss, please seek help to start the healing process.

Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.

The Teen Trauma Caused by Divorce, Family Break Ups and Other Losses

Experiencing Lost Relationships

One of the most traumatic experiences in life is loss. We all lose people we love—and not just through death. In some cases, we experience sorrow and grief. But, in other situations, that grief is paired with Trauma. The loss of a loved one or cherished relationship can be incredibly painful. Trauma doesn’t just occur due to a death because there are many forms of loss. Trauma is widely based on personal perception, processes, connection and shock. Examples of lost relationships that could cause Trauma for teens include:
  • A meaningful relationship that was suddenly ended—like a parent walking out or a hard breakup.
  • Breach of trust that destroyed a relationship—like a betrayal from a close friend, parent or mentor.
  • Divorce—especially difficult splits where the teen may become a mediator or feel torn between parents.
  • Loss of a cherished person—like a grandparent or parent after a long-term illness or difficult battle.
  • Circumstances of death that are difficult to accept—including suicide of a family member or friend, accidental overdoses or murder.

A common response to Trauma is becoming emotionally walled-off or staying in high gear, afraid of what you would be forced to acknowledge if you slowed down.

Teen PTSD from Loss

You might be shocked at how common PTSD experiences are for teens. Studies show that up to 43% of girls and boys experience at least one Trauma. Of those children and teens, PTSD is experienced by up to 15% of girls and 6% of boys. And, sadly, these are just the reported cases.

There are treatment options to help your teen handle a loss—no matter what kind of loss or where they are at in the journey. From the effects of divorce on teenagers to a romantic split up or loved one’s death, traumatic loss covers a wide range of scenarios.

For children who have just experienced a loss or are in the midst of a family break up, a counselor or therapist can help guide them through the grieving and healing process. For those who have had their emotional Trauma or complicated grief turn into PTSD or harmful behaviors, a trained professional can help them change their coping mechanisms and move towards a stronger place in life.

Stories of Loss and Teen Trauma

The many stories we hear from teens are relatable and snowball into something much bigger. There is no true way to predict what can trigger Trauma and PTSD that goes beyond normal pain and grief.

A good family. A hard break up.

Sam felt like she lost everything that mattered. Her parents were happy and had been married for years. But, her boyfriend left in a whirlwind of hurt and betrayal. Sam was devastated to find out he had simply moved on to someone new. She realized she didn’t have any friends she could talk to about it. She definitely didn’t want to talk to her parents. She didn’t feel like doing anything.

She found another boyfriend, but broke up with him as soon as things were going “too” well. The more her mom tried to pry, the more she clammed up. Eventually, her mom backed off a bit, but Sam just felt worse. She tried a few “self-help” solutions that numbed the pain of her loneliness, but brought on a whole other series of problems…

The Harmful Cycle Continues.

Bryan was just a kid when he walked in on the biggest fight he had ever witnessed between his parents. For days afterward, the air was so thick with tension that you could feel it. It was so cyclical. A few days later, they would be back to a forced place of happiness and creating “memories,” only for something small to trigger another bout of name-calling and fury. He was completely helpless in the middle of it and it didn’t get any better after their separation or finalized divorce papers.

As a teen, he resented their ability to hijack situations with drama. His anger turned into defiance—ignoring curfews and defying all rules. His grades had never been good, but they were hopeless now. He wasn’t going to put in the effort because there wasn’t any point, he decided. His girlfriend cried a lot because she said he was so mean sometimes…

The Loneliness Becomes a Chasm.

Alesha lost her trusted mentor and friend when her grandma died. It had been the hardest moments of her life watching her suffer the way she did. Throughout it all, her grandmother had continued with grace and strength—strength Alesha knew she didn’t have. At first, everyone mourned with her. But, then the world moved on and Alesha was alone in her grief. No one understood…

Trauma isn't something in the past—it comes along for the ride every day.

The Difference Between Grief Types

Grief is painful and can occur with any form of loss or hurt. But, “normal” or typical forms of grief ease up as time passes. Though grief doesn’t ever completely go away, the intense gravity of it should lift as life starts to move on. But, complicated grief is different. When things stay incredibly heavy and painful for a long period of time. It often leads to unusual responses that can be debilitating or even harmful. While everyone experiences grief in their own way, certain characteristics may be seen with complicated grief.

  • Hyper-focus on the loss over anything else
  • Excessive avoidance of the loss and all reminders
  • Can’t accept the reality of the situation
  • Anger, rage or bitterness
  • Irritation or intense anxiety
  • Detachment, emptiness, hopelessness, low self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behavior, self-harm or substance abuse

Other names for complicated grief include terms like abnormal grief, chronic grief, pathological grief and exaggerated grief. There is no timeline for when normal grief turns to complicated grief. If your teen is feeling trapped in their grief, it can turn to Trauma. If your teen is experiencing abnormal or complicated grief, connect with a professional who can help.
lost relationships, divorce, family, grief

Related Disorders to Teen PTSD

When the Trauma of complicated grief is left unresolved, it can turn to post-traumatic stress disorder or a related disorder. Teens suffering from PTSD may struggle with other mental health disorders, including anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse. Your teen may experience panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

After a difficult loss or break-up, your teen may have a high-stress response.

Stress is how the mind and body cope when a threat is perceived. However, prolonged periods of acute stress cause a natural protective response of fight or flight. In order to run from the threat, your teen may shut down, turn to substances or experience depressive episodes. Fighting the threat, your teen may become explosive with rage or try to control situations with self-destructive behavior or OCD. These are natural responses to the intense stress that your teen is feeling as a result of unresolved Trauma.

But, it’s scary to see your teen struggling in this way.

In order to help your teen, you need to interrupt the cycle of grief and harmful behavior. Your teen needs to learn coping skills to help them work through the Trauma and resulting PTSD.

Be Part of the Solution. Start the Healing Journey Today.

There’s no better time to start the healing process than today.

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