Last time I spoke of the emotions that are built up because of things that are said or not said and the wish that things could have been different, better or more. I also noted that these things need to be resolved or completed. Today I will discuss ways that can be accomplished.
First of all, it is important to remember that relationships are personal and different with everyone. Even if you have experienced grief in the past, it will be different and unique for each person that passes, as well as different and unique for each child or person that experiences the same loss. It is important to be a leader in completing the relationship without forcing personal ideas or parts of your relationship on those you are trying to help. In the following steps you need to remain neutral, and the child must feel safe to openly express their true feelings.
A natural consequence of a relationship ending, whether through death or other means, is reviewing the relationship by looking at the “good times,” or the hardships, things we regret, or hopes that will never be. It is good to review and talk about our relationships. In this review as a parent you are trying to help the child identify their true emotions--they can be a full spectrum of emotions such as sadness, anger, joy, or amusement. The child should be able to talk freely. Your child may need some coaching. The book, When Children Grieve, gives a check list of areas that may elicit emotion in the child (see pages 139-142). Some of these things may apply and some may not. It talks about being careful not to make an issue where there is not an issue. The emotion the child has may be positive or negative. It is important that the child can express the emotion without feeling like he/she will be judged for the emotions.
The check list can be used as a guide to help the child recognize emotions, and also to find areas that are left incomplete--emotions that need to be resolved. The best way is to start the child talking by introducing the topic. For example, if a grandmother had passed away, you can express some of your memories like baking cookies with grandma and how you miss her, and that sometimes you still feel sad because you cannot make cookies with her anymore. Then continue with a question like, “How do you feel about that?” This way you are inviting your child to talk and have shown him/her that it is okay to express feelings of sadness. Your child may or may not open up, but you have given the child an opportunity to express feelings.
The check list includes:
Meeting or first awareness
How are you related
Special names for this person ie. Nana
Took care of the child or stayed at their home
Punishing or easy going
Gifts, lack of gifts and/or better gifts to siblings or others
Trips to their house
Visits to the children’s home
Smells associated with the person
Fights with Mom or Dad
Very safe and easy to be with or talk to
Pinches cheek too hard, teases, embarrasses
There is a lot more in the list for if they lived close by, or if they lived far away, if they had a long term illness, what it like was near the end, how the child found out about the death, and event and anniversaries that happen after the death.
This is just the start. I will describe what to do next after you have reviewed the relationship in my next blog.
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American Fork Chapel
49 East 100 North
American Fork, UT 84003
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6141 West 11000 North
Highland, UT 84003