Oh my word, don’t we love to stay busy! Keep moving long enough until we hopefully fall into the bed exhausted enough to sleep… Oh I was very good at that one. What we know about keeping busy is that in addition to being exhausted, it can create a dangerous illusion. The illusion is that, if we throw ourselves into activity, days, weeks, and even months pass. You have actually done something constructive to deal with unfinished emotions that are naturally attached to death, divorce and other losses. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! All we have accomplished is to distract ourselves from the pain caused by the loss. Those emotions are now buried. And to quote from the one of the best books I have read on this, “feelings buried alive never die”!
Let’s take this into the child’s view point. How do they master this? Let’s go back to the woman from last month’s blog. We see how various myths hit her children in different ways. The oldest daughter decided she needed to “be strong”. Her son decided to “grieve alone”. Let’s see how her five year old daughter takes on a grief myth that doesn’t work. She watches her mom in between silent grieving in her room to a whirling dervish of activities that keep her busy. The daughter picks up on this nonverbal communication. Before she was never exceptionally tidy. However, now she becomes the Junior Ms. Clean. She moves at the same frantic pace as her mom. She is the same at school, with her friends and anything else she does to keep busy. Now she’s exhausted and still has no real tools for dealing with grief and loss. What would be fantastic is if the whole family were able to share their grief with one another freely. Be able to let others be strong sometimes. Keep acknowledging that it is normal for all of the family to feel bad; they just experienced a huge loss. Last, but not least, let them know that nothing or anyone will ever replace the loss of their father and husband. They will only be as emotionally complete with the loss as they possibly can in that moment.
Another positive benefit from not pushing through and staying busy is that the body has a wisdom of its own to heal. Most grieving people say they feel numb. The length of time is unique and unpredictable for each person. The Grief Recovery Institute has observed that this numbness is a positive function. The most obvious is the way this mechanism lets our brains, our hearts and our spirit accommodate and accept the unwanted reality of a death or other loss. It can literally take us out of our busy daily life and give us the much needed space and time to deal with the grief directly and not distract ourselves with activity. This is more important for most children as they may not have the communication skills to explain what they are thinking and feeling. Some of the next questions would naturally be; How long is enough or too long? What would block the child from moving through their grief? How long do they need to keep out of their normal functions of life; like school, work, chores etc? Is this emotional, spiritual or intellectual? If it’s all three, which one do we focus on first?
I felt this was too important to put all into one blog. I also want to explore some options of how we can allow our children to vent their feelings. Also to define grief again and how it impacts us emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Well, stay tuned for next month.
Don’t look for someone to solve all your problems.
Look for someone who won’t let you face them all alone….