Thirteen years ago, one sunny day, police knocked on Antoine’s door and told him he had lost his brother in a car accident.
The driver of an oncoming truck had suffered a heart attack and crossed the median strip. There were no other vehicles on the road. It was a freak event.
Antoine was 20 – living at home and studying for mid-semester uni exams. For the next 10 years, he barely talked about the death with his friends.
“I spent a lot of time with friends, there was a fair bit of drinking,” he said.
“We had a lot of people come to visit, mainly for my parents. There weren’t so many for me.”
Antoine’s story is a familiar one. New research from the UNSW School of Psychiatry looks at how young people deal with grief differently to adults. It finds young people are often deeply affected by their first conscious experience of death, and less likely to share their grief.
Young people also tend to be more selective than adults about to whom they confide their grief. This may be partly because young people don’t want to burden their parents, who are also grieving. Young people also want to be independent.
But this response is not great for your long-term mental health. The trauma of losing someone can make vulnerable young people more anxious. There is a risk of a chain reaction of grief and suicide.