Looking back on my 66 years on the planet and being involved with the work that we do, has given me time to reflect on the memories of the grief that I have experienced. I often use the example of my little league story. As a youngster, I finally got a base hit only to be left stranded on base after a third out. It dashed the hopes I had of a winning season.
I had forgotten this small example of grief. After years of stuffing my emotions and trying to be strong in the face of adversity, it took a willingness to open the door to this memory. Now, I can remember clearly the feeling that I had been let down and that life wasn’t fair.
At the time, I was probably told to forget about it. After all it was only a game yet, I realized that I had not forgotten this loss. I had carried it with me until I began doing my emotional work caused by the death of our daughter.
What was it that made me hold on to this pain?
So often, kids feelings are discounted. We attempt to distract them from their present moment of suffering the pain of a loss. We are inconvenienced and made uncomfortable by their mood and behavior. We look for ways to distract and deflect their pain.
I can remember being asked, “How was your day at school?”
My reply was, “Terrible.”
In response, “Oh, thats too bad, here have a cookie.”
My feelings were discounted and deflected in one quick statement. If this is what they have been raised with then its no wonder kids give us single word responses, grunt or totally ignore us. There is a “better” list of “50 questions to ask your kid after school” floating around FaceBook these days. Kids look for engagement. Showing interest in what they have to say is a great way of getting that engagement.
As a child, I learned from my parents example of dealing with the loss. As their parents and siblings died, I observed the ways that I would later handle death and process my loss. Watching how a parent mourns is the primary way that we find out about this concept of death. We have seen many examples of what not to do in this situation. We have also heard many things said that can’t be unsaid. How can being told that grandpa is sleeping in heaven help a child understand that grandpa isn’t going to wake up to play with them again? Being afraid of falling asleep has been attributed to this example. We don’t do a good job of explaining death to children.
The Grief Recovery Method has a program that is specific to kid’s grief and the premise is that children need help to process their response to loss with the help of an interested and caring adult. An adult as a co-participant in the grief recovery process, provides the support and explanation of many of the questions that a child might have of death, loss or grief. As a Grief Recovery Advanced Specialist, this program and all the Grief Recovery Institutes offerings seek to engage and explain how our uncommunicated feelings prevents us from healing from loss.
Having resources in troubling situations is important for anyone dealing with the pain of loss. Our advice is to find the resource that works for you and to ask when you need help.