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Grief overwhelms our emotions, and the pain is too burdensome. How do children cope? Children process what they see and feel differently than adults. They learn to value the cycle of life, which includes a healthy understanding of death, from what they see and hear through our behaviors and interactions.

7 Lessons Kids Learn From Us After the Loss of Loved Ones.

1–Denial That Realizes

Our mental anguish of reconciling ourselves to the reality of the loss of a loved one might sound something like this:

                      Gone? No! It’s not true! This seems like a horrible

                       dream. 

                       Wake up! I just gotta wake up from this

                       nightmare and everything will be ok. Oh, my

                       God. 

This deafening reality assaults our eardrums. Screaming:

                        TRUE…REAL…FACT… Shut up. Stop saying

                         it. Never? Never coming back–This can’t be

                         real, but it is real. 

If we wrestle with deciphering between what we’ve heard about the passing of a loved one, what we want, and what ultimately proves true about a loved one, how much more does a child struggle with comprehending the purest reality about death: We attempt to offer some assurance to them, but little ones will undoubtedly question, “So when is Grandma coming back. She’s been gone too long.” Working through our own grief, how do we help them understand? How do we manage our own emotions long enough to help them navigate through this loss?

Cry it out. Talk it out. Write it out, work it out, or draw it out. We can show kids and offer healthy expressions that this loss is real, and we will heal together.

7 Lessons Kids Learn From Us After the Loss of Loved Ones.

2–Anger that Negotiates

Sometimes we feel furious at the injustice of a bright life snuffed out too soon. Other times, we feel guilty for the simmering frustration and agitation that lurks silently in the shadows. We vacillate from varying degrees in and out of emotions as we attempt to make sense of it all. Frustration comes in waves as we try to make sense of life. What’s next? How do we face the unsettling notion of life without our loved ones? If we feel the brunt of all these emotions pressing in on us, what about our teens and preteens? We’re hurting and burdened with connecting the dots, but let’s direct some attention to helping them manage their emotions. The squeakiest wheel gets the oil, but keep a lookout for those young people who silently sink into the angry pit of despair. Come together and help everyone know that it’s okay to feel some anger, but it’s also okay to let some of that anger go and replace it with a loving sadness at the absence of a loved one. Anger keeps pain and sorrow at bay, but it’s so necessary to feel. Help our young embrace the longing. Assure them that the intense pain will fade over time.

3 & 4–Pain That Lessens & Sadness That Heals

I used to think that we get through grief like a box to check off or a grade to complete. Honestly, I learned that grief doesn’t work that way. Once a loved one has passed away, that grief remains: It morphs into the fibers of our heartstrings. Grief and sorrow remind us that we have loved. It takes a backseat and, from time to time, insists on taking the wheel. If we allow ourselves to hold steady, feel the sorrow, and then let it go, the ride becomes more bearable. When we handle this process of the cycle of life with intention and invite our kids to do the same, we begin to see some rays of light. Our children learn that it’s okay to work through and experience all the emotions that accompany the loss of loved ones. We help open the door for incoming memories. We embrace memories, not avoid them. We cherish those memories that begin to flood our days and nights. We remember the love, and we find comfort.

5 & 6–Memories That Comfort & Acceptance That Rest

The nostalgic Barbara Streisand singing:

                   Memories light the corners of my mind

                   Misty watercolor memories of the way we were… 

                   Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

                   What’s too painful to remember

                   We simply choose to forget…

I’ve noticed over the many years of writing last stories for families when the loved one is treasured; that fond memories fill every corner of the story. We all have character highlights and personality deficits, but the family consensus minimizes said flaw for this departed beloved one. It amazes me. The loved one takes on a saintly state. For the most part, I think it is a loving gesture. However, as we encourage our children to share their memories, they may present more realistic memories that reflect their loved ones. Younger children lack that “dress it up” filter if you know what I mean. Maybe, something like this:

                     Grandma was mean sometimes. 

                    I liked her better when she wasn’t sick.

Our natural response is to rush to Grandma’s defense and remind the child how Grandma loved her family, which is probably very true. Yet, in offering support to our children, remember to validate their experiences and perspectives. Consider this:

                      You’re right. Grandma didn’t feel good. She felt 

                      frustrated, and sometimes she snapped at us. When I

                      don’t feel well, I’m occasionally cranky too. Have you 

                      ever felt fussy because you didn’t feel well? Do you still

                      love us? We love each other even when cranky. Thank 

                      you for sharing your memories. 

Memories pave the way for accepting that our memories must comfort us when sadness, anger, or longing surfaces. Acceptance reminds us of the facts. Acceptance compels us to begin again. Acceptance puts an end to the constant wondering and wrestling. Acceptance ultimately helps us rest. For some, acceptance seems most difficult to attain, but that’s the place where we flourish. Our children come to terms with accepting the new infrastructure of their lives as they notice little buds of hope manifesting in our lives. Life seems doable again. They see something and someone worth living for–each other. I trust you find these 7 lessons kids learn from us after the loss of loved ones.

7–Family Stories That Inspire & Remind

Children are resilient. They will sojourn through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with more grace than we do. For them, getting through the darkest days is not the issue–growth and vitality become the central force. We trust they live long lives. With that in mind, they need the essentials for life–good ground in which to flourish. That’s our responsibility to provide, even though our hearts feel crushed. Our children carry the legacy. It takes a village, so many will plant seeds of hope, and others may help us water our children’s hope with purpose. We let them know that life still has meaning for them. There’s something task waiting for them to accomplish, and there are lives in need of their gift. We keep the sunshine of encouragement lighting their way. It shall be well for each of us and our kids. Even though we cannot see live-time growth taking form, our memories provide the incentive to make a loved one proud. We may know exactly how or when, but suddenly, our budding potential accepts that there’s more for us. The longing for our loved ones mingled with our roots of love assures us that we are all one at heart.

 

Not everyone has a healthy, loving family; however, every one of us has something or someone who inspires us to value what loving stories we have within our families, or we continue growing from the positive support of extended families, friends, coworkers, teachers, community, and religious auxiliaries that speak life over our children and us. The weeds of loss tried to strangle our hope and reason to live so that our children wither away and become fruitless vines. I speak a word of hope over us. We shall gather who remains and pour so more love and intention into our young (born in, grafted in, adopted in, surrogated in, nurtured in, just in). In time, we will all resemble a flourishing well-watered garden. Keep in mind the 7 lessons kids learn from us after the loss of loved ones.

 

Live Long and Prosper

 

 

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