When Sorrow Enters the Life of a Child
Why I Write:
I'm writing this post to assist members of my own community as well as other suffering and sorrowful communities that are coping with the loss of a young friend in the life of a child and writing with the cooperation of professional psychologists that work with children. There are many resources online and we often turn to an online search when we don't know the words, but my initial searches turned up resources not written by professionals but that had climbed to the top of the search results. When tragedy strikes a community, we as parents need solid resources to turn to so that we can best support our children and respond to their needs as they change through grief.
This might be the most difficult post to write but I believe its one of the most important. This post has nothing to do with my business other than that I am all about caring for people, because people are the most important thing in the world to me.
My prayer is that this resource will be a help in times of trouble to you. May God bless you in this difficulty and be beside you each day as you grieve and give comfort and guidance to those you love.
One of the Most Difficult Conversations We'll Ever Have
I know that parents are concerned with the words to use when they tell their child about the death of their young friend. This type of loss is different than any other and most of us probably did go through the same thing as a child to understand what words might be best. Sometimes these events happen in a time when school counselors aren't available- on a break or during summer vacation, so I consulted my friend who is a counselor and works with children on this topic so you can have some tools for these difficult conversations.
Our Whole Community Prayed for a Miracle and It Didn't Happen: Now What?
I live in a small town that is full of lots of love and many hearts of service. For the past ten months, we've all watched fundraiser after fundraiser, meal trains, gift showers, prayer sessions, and community gatherings happen to raise money for a family who received one of the most heartbreaking diagnoses for their seven-year old daughter: Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. This is a type of brain stem tumor that is diffuse - meaning it is spread out in tiny pieces and in locations that are inoperable without major loss to a person's ability to function. Though the cancer has been known for quite a long time, treatments haven't changed much. The median overall survival after diagnosis is 9 months. Heartbreak is here and covers our town today like a blanket of snow.
Our community prayed for a miracle - because research is ongoing but there aren't any cures or solutions to buy time for this disease. So, we prayed. Signs sprinkle the town reminding everyone that we believe in miracles. This isn't the first time either. A little over ten years ago, our community had a loved and well-known teacher diagnosed with cancer. The community came together then like we have this past year believing in miracles then too. What amazing support! But, as I talk with people, I wonder how so many children who were encouraged to pray (my own children included) and ask God to provide, to save this precious child and the sanctity of her family from this pain are now going to face the concept that God didn't answer this very important prayer. This is further complicated when we learn in Sunday school that we can ask God for anything. We might ask for lesser things than this that worked out in our favor. But then we ask, "Why? Why not this very important and sacred life, God? Why didn't you answer this important prayer?" And we come to a crisis of faith. A faith crisis is understandable and questions are okay. But how do we help ourselves and our children who are so young in their faith navigate these difficult waters?
Online Resources and Books
I recently did an online search to prepare myself for all of this sorrow, what to say to my son, etc. The resources I found online were often not written by professionals but had somehow risen through their Search Engine Optimization to the top of the search results. So the first things offered me to click on weren't reliable or beneficial for the continuing grief for this community and others. So, I teamed up with counselors in my community who work with tragedy, grief, and children regularly and they have created a list of solid resources for you.
Here are some of their recommendations:
I link to Amazon.com so you can purchase the books easily.
Heaven is for Real (Use the Children's book with children. There is an adult text too.)
I know that this resources is much more specific to our own community. However, you might have similar resources in your own community and hearing about our programs might be just the trigger for you to find something similar near your own home.
Healing Patch: A bereavement program by the Home Nursing Agency.
What happens at the Healing Patch?
Families who enroll in the Healing Patch program meet for ten sessions, which are held every other week, one night a week, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Every evening begins with a meal together. The children then break into age-specific groups where they engage in various activities and group discussions. The use of art, drama, storytelling and play are just some of the ways children may choose to express their feelings and share with peers who can understand and empathize with those feelings. While the children are engaged, parents/guardians meet separately to discuss the impact of their loved one’s death on the family and learn how to help their children cope.
Outpatient therapy on an individual basis.
Clay Problems and Rock Problems
My friend, Julie, is a school guidance counselor. She works with young children and is exceptional at what she does. She is also easy to talk to and can give wonderful advice about how children grieve differently than adults and how we can talk to them about problems and how to cope.
She uses a metaphor about clay and rocks to discuss problems. Some of our life problems are Clay Problems or Play-doh Problems, meaning that we can adjust details or change circumstances and use our own minds and strength to solve the problems. Other problems on earth are Rock problems, meaning that we can't manipulate anything and must then learn to cope. She offers the metaphor of a "toolbox" that her students can physically go to and choose a tool they can use to cope with a Rock problem.
If you are having difficult moments talking to your child or children about grief, I pray that these counselor-guided resources may be helpful to you. To continue reading and to get some coping skills, refer to this blog story: Clay Problems & Rock Problems.
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