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How Teenagers Grieve

How Teenagers Grieve

Picture of April Dembosky

Last year, I was reporting a story about alternative churches in San Francisco. I talked to Matthew Fox, an Oakland pastor and the creator of the Cosmic Mass, a Christian rave that replaces sermons and hymns with techno music and dancing. Hold the drugs. Fox developed his event as a way for people to experience and process intense feelings of ecstasy, anger, and grief.

"We're not shown ways to deal with grief," he said. "It's where a lot of our addictions come from. We bottle it up, we take a drink or a pill."

The patterns develop early, he said, especially in low-income neighborhoods ravaged by violence.

"Whenever I see a lot of anger, especially in young people, I ask, 'what are they grieving?'" Fox said. "Grief work is more important than ever. Our parents are failing our children. Our churches and synagogues are failing."

Over the course of my fellowship project, I will look into ways grief is being expressed and addressed (or not) in Oakland, where gang violence and youth homicide rates are sky high, and Palo Alto, where one high school is still reeling from a series of teen suicides.


The nation’s overdose epidemic has entered a devastating new phase. Drugs laced with fentanyl and even more poisonous synthetics have flooded the streets, as the crisis spreads well beyond the rural, largely white communities that initially drew attention. The death rate is escalating twice as fast among Black people than among white people. This webinar will give journalists deep insights, fresh story ideas and practical tips for covering an epidemic that killed more than 107,000 people in the U.S. last year. Sign-up here!


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