Although we have focused our efforts on Gold Star Teens (children of fallen military heroes), the effects of loss by death of a parent or other loved one by all youth are similar whether the death was military-related, or by accident, murder, or suicide. All are considered “external” causes, rather than a less sudden and traumatic death by disease. Youth who lose a loved one by external causes show a marked increase in depression over youth who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or friend from other causes.
The depression these youth experience manifests itself in many ways, with:
- anxiety, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
- thoughts of or attempts at suicide
- impulsive aggression (getting in arguments or fights)
- negative coping (such as drug and alcohol abuse or cutting)
- family discord
- feelings of isolation
All of these have a great impact on social relationships and academic success. Although we can’t provide professional grief counseling and therapy for these teens, what we can provide is a positive change:
- an opportunity to spend time with other kids who have gone through similar loss
- an atmosphere that devoid of access to drugs and alcohol
- the pleasant distraction of learning something new and the satisfaction of being good at it
- physical activity through raising sails, steering the boat, coiling lines, helping with meals, and swimming
- a safe small town in Northern Michigan
- and quietly sailing through the cool waters of Grand Traverse Bay as time slows down and nerves relax.