Live is evil spelt backwards. The precise moment I recognized this, I also came to accept that evil coexists with life. And this is not to give credence or prominence to it, but just for us to reflect on what Jesus told us……..”in this world you will have tribulations……”
One of the things that bring us immense tribulation is grief. The loss of someone and something we love is both terrifying to contemplate and difficult to deal with. We grieve many times in our life over and over for varying things, we grief what we didn’t get and some of the things we get too……. but all in all grief must never be suppressed.
My eyes were always wide shut before Andrew’s case (not his real name. ) It wasn’t the first time I had heard of a boy losing his mom, but it was the first time I had ever seen a child (and a boy none the less) openly grieve like that. It broke my heart many times over, and it was my awakening. Only a broken heart can do that. It showed me so many things. I am ashamed to say that before this, I did not contemplate what it meant to lose a parent, I didn’t think about grief beyond a funeral day. I can almost say I didn’t care because it didn’t come home…..privilege can do this. But from this one experience, I learnt:
1. Kids take their cues from us, and if we dismiss and behave as if grieving and crying are signs of weakness or are for ‘sissies’, then they will believe it too.
2. Any culture that revers rage and anger and tells us that that’s what strength resembles, then grief and mourning was bound to become a bad words in that milieu.
3. I could do something to help, anything. When people cry out for help we should find a way to help. And also when they don’t cry out for help, sometimes it’s not because they don’t need help. We need to share in pain collectively.
4. I want to start my own thing, where there is solace, comfort and healing for kids who are grieving. An idea was born, I knew the ‘why’ but the ‘how’ and ‘when’ are still conceptions.
5. It serves us well to own, acknowledge, welcome pain rather than dismiss it. I have seen how Andrew has progressed just because he was open and vocal about his feelings….
I have started reading everything I can about grief and grief management and I started researching how this is applied practically. Psyschologists and counselors have identified the Three P’s of grief…….personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. I thought to myself this along with the well known stages of grief are enough to blow an adult’s mind, never mind a kid. Someone has to unpack these things for us and walk with us through these valleys. I myself am not even qualified to do that, I don’t even know where to begin but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some skills that can be useful.
Since Andrew, the stories have only grown in number. My cousin’s two sons- and that case is especially sad because they are acting up, I mean really acting up. I worry about the fact that they are loved but not understood. I also worry about there being no intervention for them. The side effects will be felt, not only by them but also by their families, the community and country. We have to make the connection………Another cousin of mine lost his life in a motor vehicle accident leaving behind his six year old daughter…….another little girl without a father.
There are also other cases. The nine year old daughter of a former student of mine, the eight year old who watched her mother die, and the teenagers who heard their siblings plea for mercy and help, the son who was with his dad when he was hit by the car……and the myriad others who we as adults just expect to toughen up, suck it up, forget and move on. Unfortunately that’s not how it works……pain not healed is only transferred. And this is not to say that those who access help ever forget totally. They don’t, they are only able to manage the feelings in a healthy way when they arise, as they inevitably will. Kids who have lost loved ones can become wholesome healthy adults but it’s not automatic, convenient or easy. There needs to be a lot intervention, they need to know that the love lost is about losing a piece of themselves, but also that life can be normal again. They need to know that this can be transformed into something positive, that it’s part of our shared humanity. They need to know that they are loved by others……sometimes that’s all they need, just the knowledge that they are still loved, that someone cares.
Eventually all of us will experience loss…….but what will we do with it? Life is like that, it rubs us up and churns us and forces us to either adapt or die. The funny thing is, adapting is just as natural as dying. Another thing is, dealing with grief is not trying your best to make them forget or stuffing it, just as I don’t believe forgiveness equates to forgetting…..it’s so much more. Memories must be honoured and treasured, that’s healthy.
I still have both parents alive and for that I am grateful, and I am blessed to never experience major trauma the way some have, yet I still carry with me from childhood a lot of brokenness and pain to adulthood. Children are fragile and are like sponge. It’s the adults job to train them and we have to train them about difficult and intangible things too. Unfortunately a lot of caregivers or guardians are themselves too immersed in their grief to properly process and help these vulnerable ones around them. That’s one of the reasons it takes a village. Then there are other issues, do boys grieve differently from girls? How long will it take to move from one stage to the next? Is there a one size fits all panacea? I wish I knew those answers……..