A few weeks ago our mainstream and social media were filled with images of grief and disbelief. A mass shooting in New Zealand. There have been others since.
Images of heads cupped in hands. The blank stares of disbelief.
Visions of a national leader, Jacinda Ardern, stepping up to lead. Leading with compassion and connection. Using language and the voice invoking calm and healing. Rather than separation and chaos.
The lesson for our kids. Bad things happen to good people.
Unfortunately, this is apart of our makeup as a society. It can make us feel helpless.
In life. Sometimes horrific tragedy occurs.
How we deal with this is what can make or break us. Talking and communicating helps. It can help make a child feel safe. Giving the opportunity and the capacity to cope and grow. Building Resilience.
Ultimately not the best way to build this necessary strength, however facing death is not some kids find as terrifying as adults do.
Death | A Given
Tragedy is always best avoided. Ultimately though we.. die.
Death is a fact of life. It’s the one thing as a human being we know what will on “some day” happen to us. At some point in our life, we are going to grow old and die.
Although that is not always the case. As horrendous tragedy occurs. Losing someone this way or through sudden illness comes with the myriad of mixed feelings of grief and disbelief – Grief is an emotion all unto itself.
Losing someone close. A friend. A parent. A grandparent. A pet – all come with deep feelings of loss and shock.
Grief is an energy that has a life of its own. It’s not something that can be controlled — one minute you’re fine. The next, you’re in the depths of despair – the pain so deep and the waves of emotion filter right to the core of your cellular being.
The Waves of Grief
The thing about grief is it’s very different from any other emotion. It comes in waves. You can be wrapped in a bubble of love and a happy moment. Then bang. Reality and loss. It can feel unrelenting. Deep and dark and not something that can be controlled. Even though we try. In truth, grief can be a bit of an arsehole.
It’s hard on the heart. Burning itself into the cells of our body and why when hearing of other people dying or stories of tragedy it can elicit an immediate identifiable response. Memory triggers take us back to where our memory of grief first originated. Empathy at its best. It takes us into the place that we value and what is important to us.
Memory can be triggered by a smell, a tune on the radio, a passing comment. The spare seat at the table can trigger feelings of grief, sadness, and loss. Reminders of what was.
Transforming through Grief
I remember the day my Dad told me he was dying. I had a very estranged relationship with my father. Until he was diagnosed with liver cancer.
I had a choice at that moment. To hold on to past hurts or move past them. I chose the latter. This was some eight years ago. He has since passed.
My father and I had very little in common. And later found this was not the case. I offered to treat him with flower essences. At first, it was to relieve the side effects of his cancer treatments. Then it was a means the help him navigate his death. From here I began to know my Dad. He died a few weeks later. It was one of the most privileged things I have ever done.
A loss like this can hit pretty hard. For me, it was grieving a relationship I never had and would never have.
The grief came in waves – I felt very emotionally raw. I felt pain riddled through my whole body that lasted for months. At times I was very sensitive to sound, and light. My heart ached. I wasn’t sleeping, and my kids felt the heaviness of what I was experiencing.
Because of this, they acted out. They sensed my pain, my anguish.
I had to explain to them that death and grief are a deep process. It’s painful. It’s profound. It comes and it goes. Kids grieve different way to Mummy and Daddy and that’s totally ok.
Communication was so necessary and from then they understood. We moved through it in time. Time is always the greatest healer. Although death and losing love is not something you get over – its something you learn to live with.
It took me almost three years to move past my father’s death. And still, I get triggered by the simplest of things. Not something that’s ever planned. Part of me remained strangely numb and aware all at the same time. Intuitive faculties heightened.
Death can be a very transformative experience – for yourself and families as a whole. Broad emotion and dealing with this can force us into a corner. Pain can also make us feel isolated.
No one really understands the depth of what we’re going through. And in truth, they are not meant too. This is a very private and personal journey. One that awakens us to other truths and deepens us as humans.
It can bring everyone closer together. Strengthen the bonds and the ties that bind. Or it can break relationships apart.
It can show you a way through. It can also show you the shit in your life. What needs to stay and what needs to go.
It’s time when one does not put up with BS. The resonance of what you’re feeling filters through and can be feisty. Being honest is key. To yourself at least.
It’s never a good idea to make changes or choices when you’re in a crisis. Healing and clarity through grief can take time. Yearning of the past and how things were before are normal and also part of the journey through grief.
My nephew struggled to understand where his grandad had physically gone after he died. He couldn’t quite fathom that “Granddad had just gone.”
My father always sat in a particular chair in the lounge room of his house. Alex could not quite understand that Grandad was no longer sitting there.
One evening Alex was getting somewhat agitated and restless – he kept asking “Where Grandad is? Where is Grandad?” I quickly picked him up and took him outside, looking up to the stars in the sky.
“Can you see that Alex? – That star? – The one closest to the moon?
That is Grandad. He’s found a place amongst the stars. He might not be here anymore – but he’s up there. Looking down on us.”
From that moment on Alex has always looked for that star in the sky. Even eight years on he still refers to it. A knowing. And a reference of where his grandfather now resided. Alex found his peace.
When it comes to heavy emotional things such as this. Kids are remarkable. They will always rise to the occasion and show strength in ways you’d lest expect.
They do seem to fathom the depth of what is going on – in their way. Kids pick up a lot of information from their environment. Not having the emotional hang-ups as adults sometimes do, they seem to move through things a lot quicker because of this.
Kids, Death, and Grief
Grief is not only a powerful emotion. It also creates a strong physiological response. Cortisol, our stress hormone increases, putting the body on high alert. We can snap at the littlest things. Our little people can turn from a perfect little angel to an angry little ant in the spate of a second.
Things to remember
Grief is the kind of pain that can be too much to bear. Some will bury it or put it aside, seemingly too painful to face. Left unchecked it sits dormant. Until it doesn’t. It will always be bubbling in the background. Kids process things a little differently; that’s why being upfront and honest is best. Create strong boundaries – and don’t be afraid to do this. For yourself, your kids and those around you.
There are other things to remember.
Three things to remember about grief.
- Managing your grief
Be honest with your feelings –. Caring for yourself after a tragedy and a loss enables you to look after your kids, it also helps you to serve as their mirror in the way you manage the big stuff. Reaching out for support to friends and family – even Grief counseling can be incredibly supportive.
To grief naturally and healthily gives the opportunity to integrate what’s necessary and let go of what’s not. It can become starkly obvious what works and what doesn’t.
This too can be confronting.
Go slow and take the time you need. Be honest with your kids. Be open with your feelings. Show your sadness, this demonstrates to them that sorrow can be expressed in a free and healthy way.
- Maintain routine
The hardest thing to do when you’re grieving and the pain is so deep and relentless it to get out of bed and get moving on your day. Routine for kids is the best thing that you can gift them to help them maintain a sense of purpose. Giving the mind focus. This helps them to feel a sense of normalcy. Keeping bed, and meal times especially.
- Labeling feeling
Some kids may struggle to make sense of their intense and deep emotions. They may even laugh when under stress or anxiety – feeling awkward when big emotions arise. Labeling their feelings will help them to understand it’s ok to stay, hurt, angry, confused and lonely. Finding outlets for feelings such as the gym, a creative project or time in nature. Colouring in and drawing are useful in helping kids connect and express what they are feeling.
Initial symptoms of grief can be felt for up to 12 to 18 months after a profound loss.
This is not just through death. It can also come through the loss of a relationship, a job, a sense identity or a much-loved pet.
The one thing to remember that when we lose someone dear, it can be a shock whether we’ve sat by their bed for days or they have just been in a tragic accident. Having our emotional systems in place and support around you will help you (and your kids) navigate the myriad of emotions that step forth.
Grief has no time frame. It’s an individual and unique path. Navigating your pain is a feat in itself. Helping your little people to do the same can be hard on the heart and mind.
It’s important to reach out to others to help you and your family to do this. It’s important to give yourself and your family the freedom to manage this in their own way. There are no rules.
It helps too and a simple reminder that death and grief are part of the natural evolution of life.
Loss is part of loving and loving is part of the loss. When someone dies, we feel the depth of how much we loved. We can tend to forget this. Because all we feel is this deep love masked through the pain and sorrow.
Grief is mere love in disguise. Grief a means to heal and move forward. It can enrich, empower and deepen us and leave us a gift if we are willing. A good thing to remember, the greater the pain. The greater the love. And that is a gift worth receiving. The capacity to know how deeply you love for yourself and for others.
If you’re finding yourself struggling from loss, and grief – this essence may help to soothe the heart and calm the soul.
When we are in stages of grief, we can’t think clearly, nor focus. Sometimes being around people or having to make decisions are challenging. The body aches and the waves of emotion can overwhelm.
Tracy O’Meara Smith is a Holistic Health Practitioner. If she’s not working within her Perth Hills clinic, you’ll find her in the garden with her family, or in the bush soaking up the awesome flowery vibes.
Tracy uses a combination of natural therapies such as Bowen, Emmett and Flower Essence Therapy. Tracy helps people gain the peace, relief and new perspective they crave.
Tracy works 1:1 with women, online and within her clinic – Silverdale Natural Therapy. She treats women who suffer from chronic pain, insomnia, hormonal issues, and anxiety. Having two daughters of her own, she is unapologetically human. Through her own complex journey, she is sincerely motivated to leave this world a better woman and a better place.