Perspectives on Grieving
It’s Christmas. ‘Tis the season to be jolly’. Really? It’s a tough time of the year for many people for many reasons. But it’s a time of joy and remembrance. For my family, it’s equally tough. Our lives changed forever on November 20, 2004. Our family as we knew it was shattered after a knock at the door and the news that our nineteen-year-old son Ryan had died in an automobile accident. Life would never be the same... and it still isn’t.
The first step in coping with grief at the holidays is to acknowledge that the first holiday season is difficult and then to prepare for it in advance by making specific plans and obtaining the support that you need.
My mother died on October 23, 2008. A month later I spent that first Thanksgiving without her at my godmother Ginny’s house with her family. I had known Ginny my whole life and her three daughters, all around my age, were like cousins to me. They were all there too, one of them with her own three daughters.
An unimaginable tragedy happened last night. We cannot avoid the tension in the air and the fact that many of our children will probably know about it before we figure out what to say to them, thanks to 24/7 news and social media. So while we gather our own thoughts and process our own emotions, we must also figure out what to say to the children, and how to be supportive to them. Here are some suggestions to follow as you try to discuss these events with your children:
I was eight years old when my parents divorced. I always say the age hit the sweet spot—I was old enough to understand what was going on, but far too young to be able to deal with the way it made me feel. When I was little, my dad was my idol and best friend. So many of my earliest memories are moments with him—shelling peanuts on the ground at Yankee Stadium, getting quizzed on state capitals at dinner, introducing him to my latest PlayStation game and still losing every time.
"Oh, no! Not again!" Lately, there has been way too much bad news! We hear about one tragedy on Monday only to learn of another on Tuesday. It's like being hit by a monster wave in the ocean, and when you've just found your legs the next wave knocks you over again. How can we cope? What can we hold onto? In times like this, we can look to the wisdom of others for hope and help.
Let’s imagine something different. Let’s Imagine a world where children coping with loss grow up emotionally healthy and able to lead meaningful and productive lives. Let’s imagine a world where grief, loss and trauma are transformed into resilience, empathy and compassion. So that someday the world is driven by love and compassion, and not unresolved grief.
It is with a heavy heart that I reach out to you today with some resources on how to assist our children cope with the news of the recent attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert.
Many people define their lives by worldwide events. Pearl Harbor Day, JFK's assassination, Man Walking On the Moon, Nixon's Resignation, The Attack on the World Trade Center. For 4 people, the defining moment of their lives was June 9th, 1971. Almost 46 years ago, those 4 people lost the center of their universe, and their lives were forever defined as "before" and "after".
I was too little when my mom died (age 6) to have any idea what I needed emotionally. I took my cues from the grown-ups around me, such as, not to talk or ask about mom too much, not to talk about how our family had changed or what it was like having her in and out of the hospital for 9 months, etc. etc.