Aims and objectives. This study describes the implementation and evaluation of a new Body Awareness Programme (BAP) in bereavement support for adolescents. The BAP’s aims were to provide information and insight into adolescents bodily reactions, to help them develop a deeper understanding of the reasons for bodily reactions and to introduce adolescents to healthy coping techniques.
Background. Three main bodily reactions can follow a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one. The arousal of physical responses causes restlessness, concentration problems and disturbed sleep while ‘flashbacks’ of unpleasant memories contribute to increased tension. Active avoidance manifests as increased activity and avoidance of talking or thinking about unpleasant memories. These reactions may interfere with an adolescent’s development and inhibit a healthy grieving process.
Design. A qualitative, hermeneutic–phenomenological design.
Methods. Data were collected using the BAP together with in-depth interviews with adolescents, focusing particularly on their experiences or recollections of their bodily reactions and coping. Seven adolescents participated, aged 13–18 years, who use our bereavement services.
Results. The adolescents in our study internalised their struggles, and beneath their facade of coping, they reported having painful bodies that were stiff and restless. They were also anxious, experiencing painful thoughts of the deceased. The adolescents found the BAP helpful because they gained awareness of the body–behaviour–feelings connections, experiencing the techniques as helpful and possibly useful in their everyday lives.
Conclusion. The results of this evaluation of the BAP are positive and suggest that this approach is both necessary and valuable in a bereavement support programme for adolescents.
Relevance to clinical practice. Adolescents must recognise their own embodied reactions and understand their underlying causes before they can change their attitudes or seek appropriate help during bereavement. Health professionals should see beyond adolescents’ facades and offer them support.