Junge Trauer Essen – bereavement support and bereavement group for adolescents and young adults

In 2013, the wish and the request arose via the Trauernetzwerk Essen, an offer for grieving young people and set up young adults in the Essen area, as there were increasing requests for support options for younger people. By Caren Baesch and Karin Ricken has been a regular offer from a youth grief group since 2014, in the rooms of the Weigle-Haus in Essen.

The grieving work is supported by support association for the outpatient hospice service at the Alfried Krupp hospital Rüttenscheid Since October 2020, inquiries from adolescents and young adults who are e.g. under the age of 18 have also been accompanied by Dana Lammers . These meetings take place in the premises of the outpatient hospice service in Florastr. in Ruettenscheid. Peter Pfand joined the management team in October 2021.

"Our society has forgotten how to mourn" [1] and as a result, the mourning work unfortunately continues not yet as established as it should and could be. "It hurts so much when you lose. Always in a good mood and always having to function, that's what society demands of its members today. Being sad and mourning - these emotions are quickly pushed into the pathological corner, although they are essential for mental health." [2] .

The following questions are intended to explain how mourning work is seen in the context of JTE - Junge Trauer Essen and how mourning work is implemented here by the JTE team.

What is a grief group good for? Young people can talk about the loss with their friends, at school/university or with their relatives.

The death of a loved one is a life-changing experience for those of all ages. For young people, such a loss leads to particularly strong changes and challenges. These are usually not obvious and are often not expressed verbally. Still, an experience of loss affects their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to learn and their relationships. When a loved one dies, they are often alone with and in their grief, anger and hopelessness and many other emotions. Because their relatives are often so caught up in their grief that it is hardly possible for them to support their children. School or university is often a strong anchor for a piece of normality, gives the adolescents and young adults an everyday structure in the otherwise chaotic life, but often offers little space to let feelings and thoughts run free.

In the grief group, young people and young adults are motivated to actively deal with the topics of death and grief. They learn that they are not alone. They get to know other peers who have had similar experiences and feel more understood and are better able to sort through and cope with the phases of grief.

How does a group lesson or an individual accompaniment work? Do you cry all the time? Am I not even sadder afterwards than before?

In a safe space, the adolescents and young adults are given the opportunity to talk about their experiences and feelings, to get to know people of the same age who are affected and to find a good way of dealing with their grief. Here you can talk, be silent or listen. Everyone the way they want and, most importantly, can. What many do not believe at first, but can see right away at the first meeting - there is also a lot of laughter in the grief counseling. Different topics, questions or thoughts are prepared with different methods and brought closer to the participants in a creative way. Each time, an attempt is made in a different way (through movement, visual, auditory, creative ...) to give the participants a new approach, e.g. to the respective mourning phase. This allows the participants to sort themselves better in their individual mourning process and often lose the feeling of being “alone”, “different”, “crazy” or “abnormal”. The topic of “mourning tattoos” has already been discussed. This and a brief insight into the grief group was published in a WDR contribution [3] and provides a precise overview of the Working methods of the JTE team.

An exchange during a group lesson or an individual accompaniment is sometimes comparable to shaking a snow globe. After a vigorous shake, everything whirls around, the snowflakes slowly settle, some are still buzzing around until they slowly settle back to the bottom of the snow globe. Conversations can be jarring, jumble, set thought patterns in motion, and yes, often stir up emotions associated with crying. But this also means that thoughts can be sorted differently, a detached and liberating feeling is triggered and the grieving process can continue and mourning phases can be sorted out better - like with the snow globe, where the flakes fall back to the ground after a while . It is the same with any emotions and thoughts that may arise after grief counseling; they settle down and come to rest.

But during the pandemic you're not meeting, are you? Meetings are forbidden?! How does bereavement support work during corona?

The JTE team actually faced a challenge here, as did many other professional groups at the beginning of the pandemic. The meetings always took place and take place in accordance with CoronaSchVONRW and the city of Essen. Meetings are mainly held online, which are structured similarly to the live group meetings. In addition, telephone consultations or walks (also based on the current CoronaSchVO) are offered in order to offer a direct and personal exchange. In addition, the team of the grief group is always ready to find and offer new, creative opportunities for an exchange. Since September 2021, live group meetings have also been possible again.