Yvette Martinez, MS, LPC

"Overcoming Obstacles, Accepting New Challenges"

Children and Grief

Parents often wonder if they should include their children in discussions of loss, worrying that they may be too young to fully understand the experience or too sensitive to cope. Yet because death is a part of life, and grief is part of the human experience, excluding your child can make them feel as if their emotions are less valid than your own. Talking to your kids is an important part of healing.

Preparing your child for a funeral is essential for creating a positive experience. Let your child know what to expect, and talk about what will happen. Remind them that it is OK to cry, to remember, to tell stories, and to laugh. If the child does not want to attend, try to find out why, but give them the option to stay home, and arrange to have a close family member care for them.

The way you prepare your child may depend on what type of service you’re planning. If the child is going to see an open casket, try to explain what they might see, and what the room might look like. If you will be attending a burial, explain the burial process. If you’re going to a church service, explain that you will be going to church, then to a cemetery. And if you’ve chosen cremation, try to spend some time with the body before cremation. Talk to your child about cremation. You might want to emphasize that cremation doesn’t hurt the body because it can no longer feel pain.

If problems arise when talking to a child, be patient, and listen. Answer as many questions as you can, while remaining aware that sometimes the answer is “I don’t know.” In talking to your child, be aware of what others may say, as conflicting information could cause confusion. Grief affects children differently than adults, and they may become afraid of separation or appear to act “younger” than their age. You may want to guide the child toward appropriate behavior, and make suggestions about how to effectively communicate grief. In addition, students may have difficulty learning because remembering and following thought processes becomes more difficult.

By and large, however, we believe that open communication, patience, and understanding, will foster a positive experience. Participation is key. Help your child write a letter or draw a picture to put in the casket or help them choose flowers to bring to the service. Including children helps them to accept the reality of death and start the process of letting go. And finally, remind your child that some people think about death as a birth, the new birth of the spirit. Like a caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly, your loved one’s spirit has moved on to a new and different life.

Grief and Loss

Grief (Grieving) – is a pattern of physiological responses to loss through death, divorce, separation, aging, moving, loss of dignity, loss of a job, loss of a pet.

Loss equals change. The first time we experience loss and change in life is when we change from infant to toddler. Although this change is automatic, it develops our ability to accept change throughout our life. This is a necessary part of our human development.

Grief is normal. There is no right, wrong, good or bad way to grieve. Because behavior cannot be learned to prevent grief, coping skills need to be learned. These coping skills will allow us to keep ourselves healthy and accepting of change in our life’s journey. It is not what happens on our journey that matters, it is how we cope with what happens throughout our life’s journey.

Coping with loss and knowing what to change to is a trial and error method. This coping time needs to be non-judgmental and safe. Always monitor sleeping and eating because changes that are difficult to accept will show in our behavior, eating and sleeping. It will create feelings of guilt, denial, anger and depression. These are normal responses to loss, because the grief process affects our entire being. It most noticeably affects and changes our chemistry. In general, this process affects the endocrine system – the glands of our body. Our glands produce hormones that keep our chemistry balanced. Grieving diminishes the production of hormones. For example – do not consume fruit juices or high carbohydrate intake for 6 to 8 weeks after loss occurs. The pancreas is a major gland that produces insulin, therefore, this hormone may not be produced normally during grief. The pancreas cannot react to intense sugar intake. You may notice fainting, dizziness or floaty feelings. This is very important for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics. It is also important to eat small portions of food or snacks throughout the day. Your body needs repair from the stress or trauma of the loss. Most important, contact your doctor if you have these symptoms. Also, if you are on medication, the medication may need to be adjusted because your chemistry is different from when your prescription was issued.

Symptoms of Grief

  1. Loss of memory – more than normal and at any age.
  2. Difficulty following a thought processes.
  3. Five senses are diminished – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
  4. Depressed immune system - more susceptible to disease.
  5. Feelings of being overwhelmed.

 What to Do – Healthy Coping Skills

  1. Loss of memory – put note pads everywhere. Instantly write down your thoughts. This relieves the stress of forgetting. Don’t forget the pens.
  2. Difficulty following a thought process –Again, note pads and pens.
  3. Five senses diminished – these senses are how things get into us. To help bring them back to health, take time for yourself and get in touch with how you are feeling. Eat, take walks, write or discuss your thoughts and feelings, be patient with this part of change.
  4. Depressed immune system – to bring your immune system back to health you need to identify the causative factors of the stress or trauma. The more you know and understand what happened and what is happening to you, the stress or trauma begins to subside.
  5. Feelings of being overwhelmed – Feeling like there is too much to do or needing to get everything done now! Realize that you have time. Separate each task from the other. One thing at a time. It is about slowing down. Allow yourself time to change. Doing less is healthier when coping with stress or trauma.

 Remember, always call your doctor or 911 if you need medical help.

Summary

Grief is normal. There is not a way to prevent grief. Grieving is a healthy way to adjust to non-elective change. Expressing thoughts and feelings verbally or by writing them down helps to clarify your grief and the grief work that you need to do. A non-judgmental environment provides a safe place to begin to trust your thoughts and feelings. You do not change your thoughts and feelings to conform to someone else’s. Your grief is yours. Grief is a part of our human development. Grieving has no time limit. When a loss occurs, Healthy Grieving includes learning how to bond and not separate in our relationships.

Our support is always here for you. Nothing can happen in grief where we would not know how to help you to maintain Healthy Grief. 

 

Retrieved from http://colmacremation.com/healthygrief/index.htm on 2/28/12