How can we better help children with grief? As a society we haven’t done a very good job. We encourage children to express joy when they are happy; but we discourage them from expressing their sadness when they are unhappy. These mixed messages have contributed to most of us growing into adults who try to cover up our heartbreak. We walk around pretending we are okay; or worse yet, we turn to short term energy-relieving behaviors (like alcohol, drugs, shopping, anger, etc.) to “numb the pain.” These behaviors do little to help address our grief in the long run.
How can we better help our children grow into adults who can deal with these losses? It may be hard for many of us to change, but our children need us to take the lead when it comes to loss. We have to learn to replace our old behaviors with new ones when it comes to grief. This means we need to look long and hard about how we deal with and react to loss in our own lives. If we can do that, our children have more of chance of being successful in their own lives. The book When Children Grieve states, “Establishing a foundation for effectively dealing with loss can be one of the greatest gifts you give you child.”
WAYS TO HELP A GRIEVING CHILD
Here are six ways you can help a child who is grieving:
Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.
Avoid the trap of asking a child what is wrong since he or she will automatically say, “Nothing.”
Adults – Go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.
Remember the reaction a child has is unique to them. If you have more than one child, respect that each of their reactions will probably be different.
Acknowledge your child’s emotions before addressing the facts. Listen with your heart and not your head. If your child brings up the same issue over and over again, it means they are not being heard.
Make sure your verbal and non-verbal communications match. Children may respond incorrectly to their loss if they feel you are teaching them to “do as I say, not as I do.”
Our children look up to us. They tend to do as we do. It’s important that as adults, we communicate accurately about our emotions so that our children can see, copy and learn. Helping them will ensure they can more effectively deal with grief and loss events throughout their lives.
Forgiveness, the other “F” word, is one of the recovery components from unresolved grief. We know we have to do it but it’s so darn hard. We find all the reasons we can to NOT forgive. We convince ourselves that forgiveness is “crazy talk”. But….he did this. But….she said that. It would be WRONG to forgive. We place ourselves in our own unforgiving universe just because we don’t want to deal with it or worse yet, we don’t want to let go of “being right”. We think it is easier to stay angry or hold a grudge. But is it really?
Think of what it does to your body walking around in perpetual state of anger or resentment all the time. It’s like always being in a fight or flightmode. Our bodies weren’t meant to operate that way. Staying on guard against a threat eventually wears down the body’s natural defenses. After awhile, we end up with physical symptoms ranging anywhere from headaches to heart attacks. Why would anyone chose to do this to themselves?
What we tend to forget is that forgiveness is about us not the other person. You are not focusing on “being right” no matter what. You are not condoning someone’s behavior. You are trying to better understand what they may have been through. You are trying to “let go” so your own heart, soul, mind and body can be free.
Before even attempting to forgive anyone else, we should make sure that we are at peace with ourselves. This is often harder to do than forgiving someone else. Why is that? First of all we are our own worst critics. We place high expectations on ourselves and if we don’t meet them we are the first ones to send ourself a barrage of criticism. That voice inside our head starts to nag us for being less than perfect. But we aren’t perfect. We were never meant to be perfect. We have to stop being so hard on ourselves. We have to accept that we are human and will continue to make mistakes. We have to accept in our hearts this is okay. Carrying around resentment and anger against ourselves just hurts us and no one else.
Take Action – Forgiveness is an action not a feeling. Once you taken the action to forgive, your feelings will follow. For many, the very act of forgiving feels like a huge weight being lifted off their shoulders. For others, it brings the walls down they have built around their heart.
Don’t forgive someone in person – Since you are forgiving to heal yourself, the person being forgiven need never know it has happened. If you try to forgive someone in person, especially if they don’t think they did or said anything wrong, they may perceive it as a personal attack. It could provoke a new issue that could create even more incompleteness in your own life. As a result, it is suggested you never forgive someone in person.
Don’t ask for forgiveness – Asking for forgiveness is really making an apology. If you feel the need to say something directly to another person, make it in the form of an apology. Although you may have been hurt by the other person, that does not eliminate the need to make an apology for what you may or may not have done to them. Apologizing helps you to be complete.
WHAT TO SAY
“I forgive you so I can be free.” – Forgiveness is about you not the other person. This statement helps to remind you that forgiving is helping to set you free from the emotional baggage caused by anger and resentment.
“I forgive you so I don’t keep holding onto anger.” – Do you really want to carry that resentment and anger around with you forever? This statement is another way of saying I am taking care of me and this is what is important.
“I acknowledge the things you did/didn’t do that hurt hurt me and I am not going to let the memories of those incidents hurt me anymore.” –Sometimes a person creates a situation in your life that is almost impossible to forgive. This may be especially true when rape, abuse or domestic violence are involved. Instead of forgiving the person, you can forgive to let go of the memories or incidents so they no longer cause you pain. This is another way of setting yourself free so you can move forward.
I know for some people just thinking about forgiveness may not be enough. In those instances, writing your thoughts down in a journal or having some sort of “ceremony” might be more beneficial for you. Here is a short forgiveness mediation you can try using any type of candle you have around the house:
In a quiet place, light a candle.
Take a few deep breaths and relax.
Think of the person you want to forgive standing on the other side of the candle.
Look into the flame of the candle. The flame represents truth, love and kindness. Visualize the negative energy you are holding onto going into the candle’s flame. When it reaches the flame it turns into beautiful white light.
Mentally move this white light into the other person.
Now say, “I forgive you.” (Say this as many times as feels right).
After forgiving the other person wrap yourself in the white light to wash away any leftover traces of resentment or anger.
Thank yourself for having the courage to forgive.
Take a few deep breaths and relax.
You can also use this meditation for self-forgiveness. Just visualize yourself, instead of someone else, standing on the other side of the candle.
Marianne Williamson writes: “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” Here is a video of Marianne talking about forgiveness on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.
Recovery means different things to different people. Some people are upset by the word grief recovery. They think you can’t recover from loss because you will never be the same again. But the word “recovery” is not meant to suggest that you must “get over” your loss. Recovery in the context of grief recovery is about becoming emotionally complete and beginning the next phase of your life with a fresh perspective. Grief recovery is learning to heal your heart and not your head.
WHAT IS GRIEF RECOVERY?
The process of grief recovery could be described as taking action to deal with “unfinished business” so you don’t drag heartache throughout your life. It is taking a series of actionable steps to move beyond the pain associated with loss. Recovery is never about forgetting. It involves taking a guided inventory of all of the positive (and less than positive) elements of the loss and resolving those things you might have wished had been different, better or you had done more often. Doing this will allow you to enjoy fond memories, without regrets. It will also help you to look forward to the future, rather than worrying or being fearful about what it will bring.
Recovery means enhancing your life rather than limiting it. It is feeling better. It is having fond memories no longer turn painful. It is acquiring the skills you should have been taught as a child to deal with loss directly.
Recovery means experiencing the full range of normal human emotions from happiness to sadness and knowing these feelings are normal and natural.
Recovery means processing every feeling you experience as a result of your loss. This means no more walls going up around your heart or carrying emotional baggage from relationship-to-relationship.
Recovery means expressing your feelings regardless of the reaction you may get from those around you. This means not conforming to what society has told you about grief but being honest about how you are doing because that is what makes you human.
Recovery means having better relationships with those who are still living by always being “complete” with people so that you can have better relationships with them. This means delivering emotional communications better, differently or more often – usually before it is too late.
What might be some of the motivating factors in wanting to know more about Grief Recovery?
First and probably more important, you may be suffering from a broken heart.
You may be at a point where you feel you desire a more fulfilling life.
You may be tired of experiencing pain, isolation and loneliness as a result of your loss.
You may feel like you lack the proper information to deal with your grief.
And finally, you may have found the courage and willingness to let go of what has been keeping you stuck in order to move through your grief.
WHEN IS GRIEF RECOVERY AVAILABLE?
This may sound like a cliche, but grief recovery is available anytime you are ready.
It is never too soon to heal your heart.
It can start after a new or previous loss.
It can help you to begin the process of healing.
It is a structured program that gives you the tools to recover from loss and have a fulfilling and joyful life.
If you want to learn more about how grief recovery can transform your life, sign up for our FREE one-hour initial consultation HERE.