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Ask Dr. SchwartzAsk Dr. Schwartz:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

young teen response to death and grief

Fri, May 30th 2008

My daughter (let's call her Sally) is 13. In the past year she has lost two very close friends and one older person who she knew as a long time friend of the family. Her grandmother is 91 and we are near to losing her. Sally - from my father's perspective - seems a normal young person trying to find what she likes, testing her independence, etc.. She is physically and emotionally (socially) ahead of most of her peers. She is B student, loves music, hates to read, loves sports, and has a few very close girl friends. She avoids the "mean girl's" clique thing like the plague. She is adopted and has always known this and embraced it as part of her identity. Recently she began a texting conversation with a boy at school. We got access to it and discovered it to be full of "adult" language of a highly sexual nature, e.g. she asked "what is the horniest thought you've had about me?" The 13 yr old boy's responses had similar intensity of language. We had a conversation with Sally about this. After about 30 minutes of back and forth, she finally said: "Do you really want to know why I did this? I did it because I still think about my friend's deaths and it bothers me. Sometimes at night I think about it a lot. Doing this (ie sexual conversations with the boy) made me forget." So, my question....is there a link between this kind of "acting out," "out of sync" 13 yr old behavior and what seems to be unresolved grief? Might her adoption (which could now - as she is older and thinks about it more) include feelings of loss? What can/should we do to support her in resolving this?

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