“She was just a very nice person … like a helpful person.” A 15-year-old from Maryland recalls how her mother used to sweep their neighbors’ driveways. “She’ll sweep in front of everybody’s house. Like, she could not just focus on her house.”

The anniversary of her mother’s death from COVID-19 came over the holiday season. To get through the difficult milestone, she focused on making hot chocolate bars with her grandmother which she would then sell throughout the winter. “I try to take my mind off of it,” the teen explains. “Not that I don’t care. I care very much. But I just don’t want to focus on it too much.”

After their mother died, she and her siblings felt a sort of pause put on life. She didn’t want to go out as much. Being homeschooled, she was able to set aside her schoolwork when needed and have a peaceful space to sit quietly, let herself daydream, and work through her feelings. Still, it can be difficult to sort out her emotions at times. She shares that often she is quick to anger. When her oldest brother initially didn’t want to do a balloon release on their mother’s birthday, she understood. “It was like a whole bunch of emotions and I know how he felt,” she says.

Family has been a pivotal support in the time since her mother’s passing. She and her sister talk openly about their mother with each other: “When me and my sister are on the phone, sometimes we bring up good memories that we have with our mom, like fun moments we had with her.” She enjoys spending time with her cousin, who’s mother has also passed away, and feels they “have a bond.” Her father likes to joke around and play games with her and her little brother which also helps.

The 15-year-old first formally learned what grief was at a community support group she attends weekly. It was there she realized she had been through the grieving process before with the loss of other family members and learned coping mechanisms to help her manage her emotions during this journey. Of grief, she says, “It is something that is there. And you’re going through it, and you just can’t get rid of it, and you have those coping skills that you can use.” Her main coping skills are listening to music, painting, or playing games.

Sometimes the group will watch videos of other youth talking about their experience. “I’ll compare myself to the videos,” she says. “I can relate to the feelings that they feel … I get it, I do. Because it’s a very hard time in your life and you just don’t know what to do.” The teen explains how important it is for other children and youth like her to have, “a friend, somebody they could talk to about their emotions, how they’re feeling. Somebody to hang out with … somebody who’s gone through it.”