Keeping busy… oh yes that was what we were defragging. Here’s what we were going to discuss: 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?
Let’s start with, “How long is enough?” Be cognizant that the degree to which each person- adult or child- is impacted by loss is unique to them as an individual. In other words, depending on the losses we have experienced in our life, makes a difference in how we grieve. That’s why we never compare losses with others. We have no idea what others have been through. The way unresolved grief might impact someone could take more time to matriculate into feeling they could be functional at school or work. There is no realistic timeline that can be delineated for people who are grieving!
Question #2: Is this emotional, spiritual, or intellectual?” The simple answer: ALL THREE! Remember, loss is the emotional response to any kind of loss. As a parent, watch all three elements: focusing on the emotions first, spirituality second, and intellect last. In regards to emotions, it is vital that all the child’s responses be listened to. Grief is not always sad. Sometimes it’s angry , confused, bewildered, guilty, anxious or fatigued. Allow for all your own responses and your needs during this time. We define their spirituality here as: the intuitive part of human existence. They aren’t necessarily defying the beliefs they have been taught. They are working to reconcile their grief with those beliefs. Stay alert to changes or differences you may perceive in the spiritual arena. One of the best ways to stay connected to the child while grieving is to use any experience of loss to create a connecting bridge to your child. Express your feelings of loss and pain as well. You are leading by example!
Question #3: “What would block the child from moving through their grief?” That can be a complex question. One of the major reasons children dwell on the pain of loss is because they did not feel heard… You must hear and acknowledge the emotions before you address the facts of the story! If a child brings up the same issue again and again, it is most likely his or her feelings have not been heard! Remember they want to have those feelings acknowledged and they are looking to you to do that. We are not trying to fix them. They aren’t broken; just grieving. That being said, if your child seems to be exhibiting behaviors that concern you, please consult a licensed therapist who deals with children and loss.
Last thing I would like to add to this blog is a personal experience that I had recently with my daughter. We were doing some work around her fear. As the conversation ensued she was grappling with the loss of being able to be a baby. She was 16 months older than her twin brothers. I was exhausted and had no knowledge that taking her pacifier way too early was going to have a severe effect on her. She “learned” that there was no real room for her grief about that pacifier. She also came to understand that at the moment she would be selfish if she continued to have needs that taxed me. Whoa! That was a profound defining moment. We discussed that at length. I APOLOGIZED PROFUSELY! It did not mean anything about me; other than I didn’t have the tools to help her grieve when she was a child. After our discussion she felt heard and felt like she could move forward… If you take anything from this blog; please hear this. You can always acknowledge your child’s grief no matter when it happened. It will be cathartic for you both.
No matter how dark the moment; love and hope are always possible.