Helping Grieving Children Returning to School

This month thousands of children and teens will be returning to the classroom in North Texas and around the U.S. after the death of a close family member.  According to statistics 4% of single parents in the U.S. are widowed, and 13.9% of those widowed parent households have children 12 and under.  Additional children headed back to school have lost a sibling, grand parent or significant loved one.

These mourning children and teens will not only be facing the stresses of a new school year; they will have the additional stress of dealing with all the changes in their lives caused by the death of their loved ones.  Unfortunately many of these children will not receive adequate support and comfort to meet their special needs.

What do mourning children returning to school need? First of all they need to feel safe, secure and cared for.  After a death, the world becomes a scary, unpredictable place for any age mourner, but especially for a child.  They need a good support system of adults and authority figures.

Second, children in grief need to feel a sense of normalcy.  When a death occurs, the mourning child often feels that they are no longer like all the other children in their school.  In addition children in grief need to have a predictable schedule and to be involved in normal activities for children of their age.

In order to get these two primary needs met, grieving children must not only have a good support system in their home and community, but they need a good support system in their school as well.  Here are some practical suggestions for parents or caregivers for grieving children to help create that good support system at the school.

  • Educate yourself on the grief process and the special needs of mourning children before talking with your child or anyone at the school. This will help you to formulate an effective plan to meet the special needs of your child as they return to school.
  • Inform the school staff of the child’s loss. Include at least the principal, teacher, school counselor and school nurse on the list of people you inform.
  • Schedule a private session with your child’s teacher to discuss any concerns that you have about his or her return to school and the classroom.
  • Discuss with the teacher and other staff what information can be shared with the child’s friends and fellow classmates concerning the loss. Prior to this discussion assure your child that you will share only information that is necessary for others to know. Ask the staff to prepare the other students by explaining that your child has had a loss and needs understanding and support from them.
  • Encourage your child to talk with his or her teacher (and the school counselor if possible) to share the loss and their experience in their own words.
  • Assure your child that they don’t have to answer every question if they feel uncomfortable doing so. Tell her or him that they have a right to privacy when questioned by anyone at the school.
  • Assure your child that the teacher, counselor and other staff will be available to approach when he or she feels that need to talk.
  • Set up a plan for when your child may be overwhelmed by his or her grief at school. One suggestion is to arrange between the child and school staff for special permission for the child to leave the classroom and go to a designated safe place to receive support and comfort. The child should understand that this permission is not an excuse to get out of everyday school work or responsibilities.
  • Make sure the school has your phone numbers and contact information in case of emergencies.

For additional information on helping children or teens in grief, go to the Resources section of the website http://grief-works.org  call ChristianWorks for Children at 972-960-9981.

 

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Crocodile Hunter’s Daughter Shares Her Loss & Grief

How does the death of a parent early in childhood affect the life of that child?  People Magazine provides insight into the very public and private grief of Bindi Irwin, the daughter of celebrity Steve Irwin.  Irwin, known as the Crocodile Hunter,  died of a stingray attack in 2006.  Learn how the now 16-year-old Bindi has dealt and struggled with the loss of her father.  http://www.people.com/article/bindi-irwin-remembers-her-dad-steve-irwin

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Two Steps to Making Grief Easier

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating.  Grief is never easy, but it can be made easier.  There are many ways our grief load can become lighter with the changing of certain factors in our mourning, but the best way is to increase somehow the amount of support, encouragement and care you receive from those around us.  How can we mourners make our grief easier?

Many mourners experience a lack of supportive people around them.  The majority of those folks who are poor comforters for us just don’t have a clue about grief, what we are going through and what we might need.  And I would guess that the majority of the people around us mourners are compassionate, empathetic and want to help, they just don’t know how.  How can we mourners change that situation?

    • Teach our friends, family and co-workers about grief, specifically our grief experience. People around us mourners get it that something horrible has happened and that we hurt. They don’t always “get” grief and its impact on us. Because they don’t understand grief and how it affects the mourner, they feel helpless and uncomfortable around us. And when people feel uncomfortable they can say and do things that end up not being very helpful and sometimes harmful.  Mourners can help their potential supporters by explaining and expressing the grief that they are experiencing. That means telling our story as many times as it takes to find a person who can become an important part of our support system. That means we mourners have to get over our fears that what we will share with others will make them sad or drive them away from us. At the same time, we mourners need to walk a fine line between sharing enough and sharing too much or too often with the person who is supportive.
    • Tell the folks around us, what we as mourners need.
      Remind them that grief is a natural human response to the loss of a loved one and that it is not an illness, mental or emotional disorder, a bad perspective or attitude, or a sin. So there is nothing wrong with you. You will just need time to process and progress in your grief. Also let them know that there is no set timetable on grief and that you may need help, support, encouragement and care for some time.

If they ask how they can help and you don’t know exactly what you need from them, thank them for listening and say that you will have to think over their offer of help and let them know later.

If they offer to help in ways that you had not expected, be gracious and accept their gift of love and compassion as long as it is not overly intrusive. Remember: it is more blessed to give than to receive. So what happens when you reject a gift is that you steal their potential blessing that they can experience. If they give unsolicited advice, accept it with a smile and tell them politely what you really need is for them to be present, to be available and to listen without judging or trying to fix you or your situation.

If you don’t ask for what you need in your grief, most likely you may not get it. So don’t’ be afraid to ask for what you need from potential supporters who are compassionate and sympathetic toward your story and experience. That way you raise your chances of getting help, support, encouragement and care that will lighten your grief burden.

By doing these steps you will potentially increase your support system and the amount of help you receive in your grief journey.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

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Eight Reasons We Don’t Help Grievers

Mourners need other people to support, comfort and encourage them as they go through grief.  As a mourner myself, I remember the times I felt really alone.  Unfortunately,  I found that some of the  people I thought would be there for me were not…for one reason or another.

There can be many reasons why those around a mourner don’t reach out to help.  The reasons can include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable around mourners.   One of my most painful memories is of a close friend avoiding me during my early grief. I had just returned to church services a few days after the double funeral for my wife and two-year-old daughter in May 1993. As I walked down the church hallway, I saw a friend not far away. As I approached him, he saw me, then his eyes darted side to side nervously and he took off in another direction. His avoidance of me at that moment heaped more pain into my already breaking heart. I felt shunned, devastated and alone. I knew what C.S. Lewis meant in his book A Grief Observed when he wrote, “Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”Everybody can feel uncomfortable when confronted with the harsh realities of dying, death and grief. Mourners need others to step out of their comfort zone into the world created by their loss. Remember, when you feel uncomfortable it’s not about you; it’s about the mourner and his or her needs at that time. When you enter into and are present in the painful world of the mourner, your presence, availability and support can lighten the mourner’s grief load at that moment and bring significant results.
  • The fear of doing or saying the wrong thing for the mourner. The worst thing that can be done or said to a mourner is NOTHING. So don’t let your fear of causing more pain in the mourner’s life keep you from doing anything at all. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not obligated to say or do much of anything at all to provide the mourner with the support, comfort and encouragement she or he needs. In fact, the best thing you can do for the mourner is to simply be present, available and listen without judging or giving any unsolicited advice. The ministry of presence in someone else’s grief lets the mourner know that there is someone who cares and is there for him or her. Listening ears, an occasional nod, and a simple “I love you” or “I am so sad to see you hurting so much” can go a long way to make the darkest times in life seem a little more bearable.
  • Not wanting to be intrusive in the mourners’ personal time. Respecting the mourner’s privacy is important, but many friends and family members use this excuse to not do anything at all…or to just cover up their fear of dealing with a potentially emotional situation. The truth is that mourners need occasional solitude but they also need others around them to form a support system to help them through the grief journey.So fight your fears and your discomfort and reach out to the mourner. Don’t be surprised, scared away or take it personally if your efforts are met with rejection or hostility. If the mourner lashes out in anger, remember she or he is not angry at you. The mourner is angry at the situation and life at that moment. Respect their space, apologize and return at a better moment to be there for the mourner.
  • A lack of understanding of the grief process or experience.   Often those around the mourner have no idea of what a person in grief is going through. Maybe they have never had a major loss in their lives. Maybe they are simply not very good at dealing with emotional stuff.Show the mourner that you want to help and honor their story by listening to them and what they are experiencing. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. or counseling license to help a grieving person. Mourners can teach you important life lessons about grief…especially about their grief experience. Make sure they understand that you need them to tell you what they want or need. Be present, listen and do things that will show you care for them.
  • An inability to deal with the expression of emotions. Many of us find it difficult to express our emotions and to hear others express their feelings and thoughts. Again, an uncomfortable situation with a mourner is not about us, it is about them and their needs. Sometimes in life it is our turn to receive from others: sometimes it is our turn to give. Now is your turn to give back to mourners the comfort that others have given to you when you struggled in a life crisis (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • The friend or family member is grieving too. On occasion the people around a mourner may be grieving the same loss or another loss in their life. If that happens to you, be honest with the mourner as you spend at least some time for them. Explain to them you want to be there for them and that you will be, but sometimes it may become too painful for them to deal with. Most mourners will understand and appreciate your honesty. If you simply avoid them to avoid further pain without telling them why, you run the risk of inflicting additional pain on the mourner.
  • What culture and our family has taught or not taught us about dying, death and grief. Many of us have learned from culture and our family that grief is a short process that must be gotten over quickly and should be talked about as little as possible. Therefore, we can have little tolerance when a mourner’s grief process is “too long” and all that the mourner wants to do is talk about their loss and its effects on his or her life.We can often think that if grief goes longer than “normal” there must be something seriously wrong with the mourner.The truth is that grief takes as long as it takes and has no timetable other than its own. Every grief is unique to the mourner and his or her relationship with the loved one who died. Also healing in grief involves dealing with painful emotions and thoughts needing to be expressed to others in some way. Be present, patient and understanding with the mourner, allowing them the time and space they need process, express and heal in their grief.
  • A lack of empathy and/or compassion. I think that I can safely say that if you have read this far into this article, you don’t deal with a lack of empathy or an inability to be compassionate with those who are going through grief. A bit of wise advice is that if you know someone like this, be kind, courteous, empathetic, and compassionate toward them because of their situation or nature. Mourners would be wise to spend more time in places and with people that make them feel safe, supported and cared for.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

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Tips for Helping Grievers

Grief is a misunderstood and neglected process in life. Because responding to losses and death is often awkward and uncomfortable for both grievers and helpers, those concerned may avoid dealing with grief.

Society promotes many misconceptions about grief that may actually hinder the recovery and growth that follow loss. For example, friends and family may make statements such as, “You must be strong,” “You have to get on with your life,” or “It’s good that he didn’t have to suffer.” Such clichés may help the one saying them, but are rarely helpful to the griever. Other misconceptions may be that it is not appropriate to show emotions except at the funeral, or that “Recovery should be completed within a prescribed amount of time.” Still other misconceptions would imply that the grieving person is being inappropriate by laughing, playing, or being productive at work, etc.

Friends need to avoid these misconceptions and other ways of predetermining what another’s grief process should be life. An individual may have both personal and cultural differences in the ways that he or she deals with grief. Friends need to support the bereaved in recovering and restoring balance in his or her own way.

Guidelines for Helping Someone Who is Grieving

Friends often ask themselves questions, such as: What should I do? What should I say? Am I doing the right thing? What can I do better? Here are some suggestions for helping the person in grief:
1. Take some kind of action. Make a phone call, send a card, give a hug, attend the funeral, help with practical matters (e.g., meals, care of children).
2. Be available. Allow the person time so that there is no sense of “urgency” when you visit or talk.
3. Be a good listener. Accept the words and feelings expressed, avoid being judgmental or taking their feelings personally, avoid telling them what they should feel or what they should do.
4. Don’t minimize the loss and avoid giving clichés and easy answers. Don’t be afraid to talk about the loss (i.e., the deceased, the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, the disability, etc.).
5. Allow the bereaved person to grieve for as long or short time as needed. Be patient. There are no shortcuts.
6. Encourage the bereaved to care for themselves. They need to attend to physical needs, postpones major decisions, and allow themselves to grieve and recover.
7. Acknowledge and accept your own limitations. Many situations can be hard to handle, but can be made easier with the help of outside resources – books, workshops, support groups, other friends, or professionals.

Support for the Helper

Supporting a grieving person can also be stressful for the helpers. They need to take care of themselves, while also attending to the need of the families grieving. Since helpers themselves are often grieving, they may need to address heir won healing process. This may include having the opportunity to express their own emotions and turning to other friends for support.

Just as there is no single pattern to grief, there is no single way to help a grieving person. Both the grieving person and any friend who is trying to help may feel unsure and uncomfortable. Either way, remember that it is important to be yourself. Furthermore, remember that as a friend, you probably are helping just by listening and being with the grieving person.

Compiled by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

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Love Never Dies Support Group — What Is It?

Love Never Dies Grief Support Groups are centered on the faith-based grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” by grief educator, public speaker and therapist Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT.  Published in 2011 by Xulon Press, the book has been purchased by thousands of mourners, caregivers, and bereavement specialists in the United States and abroad.

Larry Barber knows grief all too well.  In May 1993 his wife Cindy and two year old daughter Katie died from injuries suffered in a traffic accident in Arlington, Texas.  As a widowed single parent he raised two surviving children, nine year old Sarah and 12 year old Christian.  Early in his grief walk Barber cried out to God to send people and knowledge into his life that would help him and his children through his grief journey.  In return he has promised that he would gladly share what God equipped him with to help other mourners.   Since that promise, Barber has accepted a grief support ministry that has reached out to thousands who struggle after the death of a loved one.

Barber is a minister, a licensed professional counselor, and certified in Thanatology (the specialized study of death, dying and bereavement) through the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).

He served six years as a hospice bereavement coordinator; fifteen years as a grief support group facilitator in Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington TX; and seven years as the director GriefWorks (http://grief-works.org) , a free grief support program for children ages 5-18 and their family members, in Dallas TX.   Barber conducts grief seminars, in-services and church presentations.  Committed to sharing grief insights shared with him by fellow mourners, he is tireless in efforts to comfort and equip those in grief.

Through his book and Love Never Dies Grief Support Groups, Barber shows mourners how to lighten their grief burden by changing how they view grief.

Love Never Dies groups and seminars help mourners, caregivers and helping professionals understand that:

  • Grief is the expression of love for the person who has died.  Mourners do not need to be fixed, cured, diagnosed, pitied or corrected.
  • Healthy grief embraces the loss experience.  Grief serves a purpose.  Avoiding grief delays healing.
  • Maintaining a relationship with the person who has died is healthy and healing.  Mourners do not have to “let go” of their loved one in order to progress successively in their grief.

Participants in the Love Never Dies support groups and seminar learn that in grief there can be:

  • HOPE  for today and the future
  • PROMISE that the resources needed to get through grief are available

For information about scheduling Larry Barber for a speaking engagement or event, please call 972-960-9981, ext 108 or send requests to griefminister@yahoo.com.  More information about Barber can be viewed on his profile on LinkedIn or by following him on Twitter @griefminister01.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEXT LOVE NEVER DIES GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP CAN BE FOUND AT  http://gatewaypeople.com/articles/love-never-dies-embracing-grief-hope-and-promise-0

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Every Day Can Be A Memorial Day

“…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes 3:4

Our country recognizes the need for mourners in a community traumatized by devastating events, man-caused and acts of Nature, that result in the deaths of loved ones to remember those events and honor the people who died.  Memorial Day and the anniversaries of events such as the 9/11 attacks,  shooting sprees that have been witnessed by the nation in news reports, the tsunamis in the Pacific and the attack on Pearl Harbor are honored year after year.  And for however long these memorial events happens the nation sits in silent reverence and honors the need to remember those who died.

But many times the needs of mourners coping with personal losses caused by the deaths of their friends or family members are not met with the same approval, silent reverence or honor.  Over the years mourners in grief counseling and in grief support groups have told me their friends give subtle hints and sometimes very blunt statements that they should be:

    • Doing better by now.  This isn’t true because grief has its own timetable and every grief is different.
    • Stop feeling sorry for themselves and getting back to life and their other relationships and responsibilities.  This is not true because grief is not selfish or self-pity.  Grief is when we realize the impact of the loss on us and work to process our grief in a healthy manner.
    • Putting their loved one in the past and moving on.  This is not true because you will never be able to forget what your loved one meant to you and did for you.  They are a part of who you are.
    • Happy and satisfied with the closure that they received during the funeral or memorial held.  That’s not true because funerals and memorials are not the end of grief.  Funerals and memorials can be the start of healthy grief and healing.
    • Seeking psychiatric or other professional help if their grief, crying, and depression last more than a certain accepted period of time.  This isn’t true because grief is the natural human response to loss.  It is not a disease, disorder, bad attitude or a perspective that needs to be corrected.  Mourners need time, support and encouragement to start moving toward feeling better.

 

The truth is that each mourner whether he or she suffers a personal, private loss due to a single death or shares with a community in a devastating loss caused by multiple deaths has the need to remember and honor their loved one(s) on an on-going basis.  Think of it this way–every mourner endures in loss his or her own personal 9/11.  Therefore every mourner should be able to:

  • Honor their loved ones in meaningful, respectful and healthy ways throughout their grief—through rituals and simple observances if necessary.  Mourning the death of a loved one in a healthy way honors a valuable life and person who should never be forgotten or just left in the past.
  • Remember a day and event in history that has changed their lives and their world forever.
  • Continue to maintain emotional and spiritual ties to the person no longer physically present.  When a loved one dies, the relationship doesn’t end, it just changes.  After a death the relationship transforms from one based on the physical presence of the loved one to a relationship that is based on memories of the loved one.

For the mourner, every day can be a Memorial Day.  Be patient with the mourner, honor his or her story by just listening, and honor their rights to keep the memories of their loved one alive in healthy, healing ways.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

 

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Mother’s Day Can Be Painful for Mourners

It would soon be Mother’s Day again, and I was dreading it.  I wasn’t dreading the day for myself, but for my children who had lost their mother Cindy and two-year-old sister Katie six years ago after a traffic accident.  Every Mother’s Day after my wife’s death had been shear torture for my family as in church services the congregation took out time from worship to honor the mothers attending the service.

I didn’t begrudge the families that special time honoring their mothers, but each Mother’s Day ceremony was just another reminder of the tremendous losses my family endured.  I knew it was a painful flashback to my wife’s sudden and tragic death.  But I still had my mother at the time, and I could only imagine how painful it was for my son and daughter as they watched a carefully crafted, loving collage of photos of other mothers and their children.  To make it worse, the barrage of pictures had a soundtrack of “sappy” music meant to evoke an emotional response.  My gut response was to grab my children and exit the church sanctuary, flee into the parking lot, load up the car and head for the shelter of our home, but I didn’t.   I just endured the experience.

Some Mother’s Days my family had just stayed at home to avoid the experience.  I was tempted to play hooky from church again, but one Sunday before Mother’s Day something in me told me that I needed to let the church leadership know how I and my children felt on Mother’s Day without our family’s mother.  Surely there were others who had lost their mother and felt the same way.  Maybe we could honor mothers in a different way that was less distressing for those mourning the loss of a mother.

I saw the minister walking to his office after the service, and I knew what I had to do.  I stopped him and asked if I could request a favor.  “This Sunday could we do something special for those who don’t have their mothers with them anymore?” I asked.

The minister’s face softened as he said, “Well, I don’t know, Larry.  Let me talk with the staff and see what we can do.”  The minister knew our story because he had spoken at Cindy and Katie’s double funeral

I walked away feeling relieved that I had let someone know how I felt.  Maybe things would change, and maybe they wouldn’t.  At least I had made my needs known.

On Mother’s Day much to my dismay the traditional collage of pictures of mothers and children and the “sappy” music began.  I have to admit that I was disappointed.  The usual painful feelings and the hurt for my children returned.  Maybe I had not given the minister and the church staff enough lead time to make a change in how we observed Mother’s Day.  The pictures and the music seemed to go on forever.

Then the pictures and music stopped.  Before my family could get seated, the minister stepped up to the pulpit and said, “Now I would like to ask all those of you who no longer have your mother with you in this life to please stand as we say a prayer over you.”

“Dear Father God,” the minister said as we and others around the sanctuary remained standing. “We thank you for the blessings of mothers in our lives.  At this time though we pray a special blessing and care for those standing now who no longer have their mothers in their lives…..”

As I began to cry, my knees buckled, but I made an extra special effort to remain standing in honor of my children’s mother and my wife.

The minister continued, “Be with them today and watch over them.  Let them remember the wonderful gifts that their loving, sacrificing mothers have given them.  Fill their hearts with gratitude for their mother as they review the special memories of their mother’s life.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.”

I looked through tears at my children with their heads bowed in prayer, and I thought how proud their mother must be of them.  That was the best Mother’s Day ever.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Easter Through the Eyes of a Mourning Child

The large meeting room at GriefWorks, the free children’s grief support program in Dallas, Texas –March 2014

As the circle of eager children and their family members prepared to go into their grief support groups and enjoy the company of fellow mourners their age in fun activities, I asked the group to share any exciting news that was happening in their lives. Seven-year-old Brandon, who always has something exciting to share, stuck his hand up in the air. I said, “What do you have to share with the group, Brandon?”

“Easter is coming soon!” he shouted with a big smile on his face.

“And why do we celebrate Easter?” I said.

“Because we get candy…and stuffed animals!” Brandon proclaimed.

“That’s right. Sometimes we do get candy and gifts,” I said. “But what else do we celebrate!”

“Fake tattoos!” he shot back. “Sometimes I get fake tattoos!”

“Okay,” I replied. “But what else do we celebrate at Easter?”

Five-year-old Mandy spoke up. “Jesus died on the cross.”

“That’s right,” I said. “And then what happened!”

“God brought Jesus back from the dead!” exclaimed Mandy.

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!” Brandon shouted as he threw back both his arms and hands and his little body bent backward in rigid, questioning protest. “That’s not fair!!! How come Jesus gets to come back from the dead and my Nana doesn’t?” said Brandon as he stared angrily at me. “That’s not fair!!!”

That was certainly not the response I had expected to get from the group as we talked about the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ along with the hope we share in knowing that our Heavenly Father raised Jesus from the dead. But honestly, Brandon is not the first person grieving over the death of a loved one who has asked that question. Brandon is not the first person in history who has asked how an all-powerful, loving God could allow their loved one to die leaving them to be without that valuable person for the rest of their lives. To the mourner missing a loved one, that doesn’t seem fair.

Easter is a joyous time, yes—a time filled with candy, Easter egg hunts, baskets with stuffed animals and gifts and sunrise Easter services speaking of hope and Heaven. But for the mourner it can be an emotional and sometimes painful time. For the person still missing that important loved one in their lives:

  • Easter activities with an emphasis on family, friends and loved ones can be a reminder of their loss because they will never get to spend another Easter with their loved one.
  • Easter with its focus on Death can be a reminder of the hole in their hearts and in their lives that Death has created by taking their loved one from them.
  • Easter with its focus on resurrection from the dead and an empty tomb can be a reminder that the casket, urn or vault containing their loved one is stilled filled with the remains of their loved one.
  • Easter with its focus on rejoicing and joy can be a reminder of how sad their lives seem without their loved one.
  • Easter with its focus on hope for the future and talk of seeing Jesus return can be a reminder that they can’t see their loved one who has died when they want to—now. They may be thinking, “Hope for the future is nice, but I want my loved one back now. I don’t want to wait.”

As children and adults went to their GriefWorks support groups, I leaned down to talk with Brandon. I looked into his sad eyes and said, “You know, Brandon, that the same power God used to bring back Jesus from the dead He is going to use to bring us back from the dead….and our loved ones too.”

“Then I’ll get to see Nana?” Brandon said with a relieved smile.

“Yes, you’ll get to see Nana. And the rest of us will get to see all the people that we love that God has been taking care of in Heaven for us,” I said smiling back.

Remember this Easter to have fun, spend time with the ones you love most, thank God for your blessings, thank Jesus for His sacrifice and celebrate The Empty Tomb—the symbol of all believers’ hope for today and tomorrow.

But remember too those who are hurting because of Death and the loved ones who have been ripped from their lives. Sometimes in the deafening pain of grief it is hard to feel comfort, joy and hope. All they can feel or hear is pain and sadness after the loss.  Be with the mourner this Easter, support them, be patient and encourage them.  Without preaching or trying to change their grief, share some of your hope from The Empty Tomb.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live… (John 11:25)

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

 

Posted in Grief Support, Spiritual Health | 3 Comments

10 Common Emotional Experiences in Grief

Although every grief is unique and unpredictable, there are many common emotional experiences that can happen in any grief due to the death of a loved one or significant person in your life.  Some of them are:

  • A state of shock:
    When sorrow and the pain of loss come flooding in initially, we instinctually shut down our emotions in order to anesthetize ourselves from the grim reality we face in grief.  This initial phase of grief protects us from going into emotional overload – experiencing the full impact of the loss before we can completely accept what has happened to our loved one and to us.
  • Overwhelming pain & emotions:
    When the shock phase begins to fade, the reality of the loss hits us.  The result is overwhelming pain and emotional turmoil.  As we realize how dreadful the loss is, emotional release begins to be expressed, often without warning.  The grief emotions inside turn into observable mourning.  (Remember mourning is simply grief gone public).
    Immense sadness and loss usually is expressed in uncontrollable and unexpected crying.  Our first instinct may be to stifle tears because we feel out of control or embarrassed.  The truth is though that crying opens the way for us to acknowledge and express all grief emotions helping us to progress through grief and toward healing.
  • Depression & loneliness:
    Feelings of utter depression and isolation are common.  Grief causes us to question our deepest held beliefs – especially our beliefs about God and how He works in the world.  It might seem as if God is no longer in control in His heaven – almost as if God does not care and is not present in their lives.  Such depression and feelings of being all alone are normal, healthy grief responses.  These feelings and thoughts will pass as we refuse to be overwhelmed by our feelings or thoughts and progress through grief.
  • Physical symptoms of emotional distress:
    The continued emotional stress of grief can manifest itself in all sorts of physical maladies—real and/or imagined.
  • Experiencing panic/fear:
    The emotional turmoil of grief can be overwhelming to us.  Because the emotional experience is often greater than anything else we have ever endured, a sense of fear and panic is common.  We begin to question our sanity and if we are doing grief “right.”   An overwhelming sense of deep despair causes us to also question if we will be able to endure what lies ahead and if we will ever experience joy and happiness again.
  • Experiencing guilt about the loss:
    We can feel real or imagined guilt for what we did or did not do for the person when he/she was alive.  Guilt can develop into neurotic guilt which is all out of proportion to the reality of the involvement and control we had in the happenings surrounding the loss.  Acknowledging and expressing this guilt, voicing regrets and “asking” forgiveness for perceived wrongdoings can move us toward healing from these grief wounds.  We must also work toward forgiving ourselves for what we did or did not do.
  • Feeling anger & resentment:
    These “negative” emotions are normal.  However, we must admit to ourselves to acknowledge anger without giving into destructive behaviors.
  • Resisting a return to life:
    Something inside keeps us from going back to usual activities.  Perhaps it is the desire to keep the memory of the tragedy alive as a way to honor the life of the loved one lost.  We fear that smiling, laughing, and experiencing joy or pleasure somehow signifies that the life of the deceased is not being honored or remembered.  Since the pain of grief is a reminder of the emotional tie we have to the deceased, we become comfortable in grieving and fearful that everyone has forgotten our pain.  This causes us to become stuck in our grief—failing to move on toward healing.
  • Realizing hope
    One day “the clouds part and the sun shines in” for us.  It becomes possible for us to experience joy and pleasure once again.  There is a realization that there are moments when grief does not dominate our thinking.  There are still bad moments, bad days and bad weeks, but they happen less and less often.  There is an overwhelming feeling of “I can make it after all.”
  • Struggling to affirm reality
    As we move through grief, we realize that we have been changed by the experience.  The deceased’s influence in our life changed us, making us better people.  The loss of the person has also changed us—making us either healthier and stronger in spirit or sicker.

Compiled by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.

Posted in Grief Support, Spiritual Health | 2 Comments