Being a teenager can be extremely difficult — even at the best of times. Adolescence is a time of profound and complex physiological, emotional and social changes. So what happens for teens if someone they love has a life-threatening illness like cancer or if someone they love dies?
Experiences of grief and loss are extremely stressful and have the capacity to turn a young person’s world upside down. Family dynamics can shift dramatically and relationships with peers can be altered. Heightened, intense and unpredictable emotions can dominate one’s thinking and make it difficult to focus at school, to stay motivated or to make decisions. Physical well-being can also be compromised by overwhelming fatigue as well as difficulties with sleep and eating.
Mental health research indicates that youth who experience the death of a significant person in their lives are at heightened risk for depression and anxiety, decline in school performance, isolation, substance abuse and self-harm. Despite increased needs for emotional support, youth can be difficult to reach through traditional counseling approaches. They are often reluctant to seek help, especially if it is offered in an institutional or office-based environment.
The Youth Program has grown out of our success in working with youth in nature-based, camp/retreat settings. We have repeatedly seen that by engaging with their peers and counsellors in therapeutic and recreational activities, youth are able to connect with others who understand, reduce their sense of isolation, learn healthy ways to express their grief and build self-confidence and new hope for the future.
Our Youth Program is based in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia where we have a dedicated youth counselor who has the flexibility and the time to meet with youth in settings where they are most comfortable. We offer support to bereaved youth between the ages of 13 and 21 through individual and family meetings, peer mentoring (by other bereaved teens), special outings, creative projects (ie. songwriting, recording, videography, photography) and a facilitated online social network. We also offer an annual fall family retreat (Camp Kerry BC) and youth-only bereavement retreats.
Referrals for any of our retreat programs or for our online network are welcomed from any community in British Columbia. For more details, to apply, or to make a referral, please contact our youth counsellor by email using the form below or call our New Westminster office at: 604-553-4663.