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. 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 either way grief must never be suppressed. Grief when aligned with shame however, breeds just that.
My eyes were always wide shut before Andrew’s case (not his real name. ) It wasn’t the first time I heard of a child losing their 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 about ten times over, and it was my awakening. Only a broken heart can do that. It showed me so many things. I am almost ashamed to say that before this I never contemplated what it meant to lose a parent, I didn’t think about grief beyond the funeral day. 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 especially, 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’s where our strengths are, 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.
4. I want to start my own place where I can provide solace, comfort and healing for growing kids. An idea was born, I knew the ‘why’ but the what and how are still conceptions.
5. It serves us well to own, acknowledge, welcome pain rather than downplay it. I have seen how Andrew has progressed just from been open and vocal about his feelings….
I started reading everything I could about grief and grief management and I started researching how this was 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 know stages of grief are enough to blow an adult’s mind, never mind a kid. Someone has to unpack these things for them and take them through the wilderness. 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 cousins two sons- and their case is especially sad because they are acting up, I mean really acting up. I worry about the consequences of having no one understand what is happening and 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………
There are also other cases. The nine year old daughter of a former student of mine, teenagers, 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 and a lot of love, they need to know that the love lost is about losing a piece of themselves, but even so that this can be transformed into something positive. It is a gift and 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 this is, adapting is just as natural as dying. Another thing is dealing with grief is not trying your best to make them forget, 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 yet I still carry with me to adulthood a lot of brokenness and pain from childhood. 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 during this time. That’s one of the reasons it takes a village. Then there are the 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?