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What is it like to grieve as a teenager? Interview with Mark O’Sullivan, writer of Tell Me Everything

What is it like to grieve as a teenager? Interview with Mark O’Sullivan, writer of Tell Me Everything

Home » Stories » What is it like to grieve as a teenager? Interview with Mark O’Sullivan, writer of Tell Me Everything
Photo of Nadia, Winston's Wish Youth Ambassador

Interview by Nadia, a Winston’s Wish Youth Ambassador

What is it like to grieve in your teens? Hit teen TV drama, Tell Me Everything, gives an insight by following the experiences of 16-year-old Jonny and his grief after the death of his dad. Winston’s Wish Youth Ambassador, Nadia, talks to the writer, Mark O’Sullivan about the series, finding humour in dark times, not wanting to grow up and being the ‘kid whose [important person] died’.

Tell Me Everything is set in a town in England and although the main storyline surrounds Jonny’s grief, Mark has written several characters who are all going through their own mental health struggles and teenage discoveries. As Mark mentions during the interview, he grew up watching John Hughes films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, so this series has a nod to those types of coming-of-age comedy dramas.

When Mark was 15 his dad suddenly died, 30 years later Mark created the TV series to share his story with the world. Jonny, the main character, is based closely on Mark’s grief journey and life experience. The series follows Jonny and his friends from the day his dad dies and what happens over the following weeks.

Nadia was 15 when her brother suddenly died, so she could relate to and understand a lot of what Jonny’s character was facing in the series. Nadia is an MA graduate within TV and Film, so not only does she have personal experience of being a young grieving person, but she also has the knowledge and understanding of writing for screen.

So what did we learn from Nadia and Mark’s interview about what it’s like to grieve as a teenager?

1. Using humour is a way some grieving teenagers cope

“I mean, humour has been kind of the only kind of saving grace of my brother dying and my best friend passing away a few months after that. And watching the funeral [scene], it just brought back a lot of how I remember I was reacting. I came out of my brother’s funeral and turned to my best friend and I went… ‘That went on for ages, didn’t it?!’ Do you know what I mean? And everyone’s looking at me like, ‘What are you…’, ‘How dare you say…’. And it’s like, ‘No, I can say that. If anyone can say that, I can say that.'” – Nadia

2. Teenagers can still act like teenagers even when someone close to them has died

“It didn’t play out quite as it happens[in the series], but I did pull at my dad’s funeral. And you know, I was 15 and you’re thinking about all that stuff at that time. And yeah, your dad’s dead but you’re still 15 and, you know!” – Mark

Continued below…

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3. They don’t want to be treated differently

“When you lose someone when you’re young, you’re already different. You’re already kind of a bit weird, aren’t you? Because you’re the kid whose brother or dad or mum or whoever has died. And sometimes I didn’t mind that weirdness and that difference, because sometimes you kind of felt a bit special. But other times, probably more of the time, I don’t want to be weirder. I don’t want to be more different. I still want to do the things that I feel like a 15-year-old should be doing.” – Mark

4. Sometimes adults just don’t get it

“It highlighted how kind of rubbish adults can be during a time where a young person’s grieving. And I think that’s something that only when you’re young you can really relate to, because it does feel like you’re just having a load of adults telling you that you need to grow up and get it together, and you need to step up now. And that’s the last thing you want to do. It resonated with me so much when Jonny just kind of turns around, like, ‘I don’t want to grow up’.” – Nadia

5. Feeling all your emotions isn’t such a bad thing

“I don’t ever want to not have that little bit of sadness about them because it helps me remember them.” – Mark

“It is that sadness that you have to remember will kind of always be with you. But is that a bad thing?” – Nadia

In this video, Mark and Nadia chat about Tell Me Everything and intertwine referring to their own grief experiences and teenage life. You can watch the full interview below:

Tell Me Everything is available to watch on ITVX.

How to speak to Winston’s Wish

If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.

You can call us for free on 08088 020 021 (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday), email ask@winstonswish.org or use our live chat (open 3-8pm, Monday to Friday) and find out more on our Get Support page.

If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.