Experiencing Grief with Children

Experiencing Grief with Children

Last week, friends suffered the loss of their 37 week old unborn baby and obviously this has been an extremely sad time.

In fact there has been a “numb haze” that has been both visible and palpable through the entire school community.

What has also been palpable and beautiful to watch unfold, is the comradry amongst parents. Other couples volunteering an array of loving services for the family involved.

Sometimes these loving acts of service come about  as many people find themselves frozen with fear of “not knowing” what to say when death occurs or a fear of not wanting to say something inappropriate.

These displays of support are indeed greatly needed and yet having experienced a similiar loss with our son Abe sometimes when we take a risk and step out of own comfort zone and simply be authentic about the emotions everyone is experiencing – we assist rather then hinder, the grieving process.

Somewhere along the line, many us have learnt that it is more socially acceptable that “certain emotions” are better left unsaid. They are better swept under the carpet and “should” only be discussed at a deep level with intimate friends, if at all.

Seemingly we don’t like to dwell too long with raw emotions.

Many of us keep an arms length distance – through fear that we may create more pain or discomfort for those striken with grief, when in reality – there is nothing anyone can really say that will ease the pain.  While we have the best intentions, avoidance of the topic at hand rarely allows those greatly in need or ourselves, time to sit with the pain of the circumstances.

Many parents feel it is best to also shelter children from these sad times arguing that they are too young to understand. Perhaps this is true. Yet when I reflect on how many adults feel “ill-equipped” to handle emotions of great magnitude, are we really doing our children any service by underestimating their capacity to process the world they live in? Some parents feel it is inappropriate to take young children to funerals. Again perhaps this true, however if I reflect on the beautiful conversations Simon and I have shared with our children pre and post funerals I believe there is great value in them partaking in authentic displays of human emotion.

If we deny our children suffering, do we not also deny the great lessons that come through suffering such as empathy, tenderness, courage and love?

If we continue to shelter our children from pain or if we deny them their capacity to process emotions -are we not also denying them opportunities to learn how to speak from their heart.

Having the courage to speak from the heart is something extremely foreign to most adults yet if asked, most adults would love to have the intestinal fortitude to communicate at this deeper level. Imagine the healing that could take place.

As always death is very sad and when a child dies ……..well it’s almost as if life sweeps your feet out from under you. Where we fall flat on our butt and it is only the curiosity of “what the heck is life all about” and an attitude of gratitude that finally enables (most of us) to get to our knees and remember all of the good things in life.

Our family is still witness to how these dire circumstances effect those left behind.

With this in mind we believe it is extremely important that our boys do not feel they need to be aloof with matters of the heart, and the uncertainty and fraility of life is not to be feared for it is what keeps us in gratitude for all our blessings and all that we have.