Teens and Grief

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.


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