I am still reviewing the principles in When Children Grieve by John W. James, Russel Friedman and Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews. Last time I gave a brief introduction and talked about two of the six misconceptions about grief that have been passed on to us by our parents, society and mentors.
The myths I discussed were first about, “Don’t Be Sad,” and the second is about replacing the loss. Today I am going to discuss two more myths-- you should grieve alone and you must be strong. As they were discussing the myths of grieving alone and you must be strong, the reference came back to “Don’t feel sad.” Society has influenced us to believe that all negative feelings should be dealt with privately. We have seen family members do this. It is told to us in books, movies, songs and even sayings. How many of you have heard, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.” The problem is this is not helpful. When an infant cries, the first thing parents do is go and comfort the child, and find out what is needed. This establishes a bond of trust. If we expect a child to stop crying because he/she is older, or to not express negative feelings because of the need to be mature now, we essentially stop the child from saying, “I hurt” or “I am sad.”
As the child matures, it is important that he/she learns to express and communicate feelings in words and appropriate actions not just cry like the infant. When a child is not allowed to express that he/she feels bad, the bonds of trust may be broken. It is important to acknowledge there is pain or sorrow. It can be as simple as saying, “I am sorry,” or “You really loved that, didn’t you.” or similar phrases. Actually, sharing grief together is very helpful. This is the realization from which the funeral has evolved.
I had no idea how much these myths were a part of my own thinking. The authors at this point are very cautious to have all of us forgive ourselves and our mentors that may have taught us these beliefs. There is hope we can start to change the way we communicate with our children and help ourselves be healthier and happier too.
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