I grew up believing that if you tried to live a good life and make good choices that for the most part, you could avoid pain, and for a while I felt like my life was almost perfect. I was living my dream. But, in the middle of one horrible night I received a phone call and my ‘almost perfect life’ was shattered. I found my brother after he had taken his life, which started me on a journey of grief. A year and a half later, I was barely starting to find joy in living again when I was diagnosed with cancer.
When grief came to our home, I found that I didn’t know how to cope well with it. I found I was suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and instead of dealing with it, I wanted to run from it. Grief is messy, it’s hard. I remember wanting to escape into movies to hide from the pain. But I had four small children, and escaping wasn’t an option. I needed to somehow find healing. I knew I really wasn’t able to help my children grieve until I found healing for myself. And so I did.
I remember feeling frantic during this time. I was taught as a parent to protect my young children from grief, not to prepare them for it. I equated love with protection, instead of preparation. I was trained to shield and protect my children from pain, instead of teaching them about it and going through it with them.
While on the road to finding healing for myself, I began talking to a pastor friend, a few trusted therapists, a child-life specialist, the kids’ Pediatrician, and other mothers whose families had been through life’s storms. I was trying desperately to gather information in helping my children in their grief. I relied on my own mother’s intuition and also spent hours upon hours reading books about grief. I have spent nearly three years collecting information on the topic of grief so I could better help myself and my four children through two very different ‘hards’ in life.
Those first few months after my brother’s death, I remember feeling like I was drowning. I felt lost and overwhelmed and I wished desperately for someone to tell me what to do. It is because of this, that I decided to create an ecourse, a humble compilation of my own learning in how I helped my children navigate through grief. I would have loved to have one place to go where I could find advice in helping my children through grief. My hope is that a part of what has worked for our family, may also work for yours.
Life is hard. It doesn’t discriminate and it’s often unavoidable. I believe that all of us, if not already, will at some point be impacted by grief. When I entered the world of grief, my eyes were opened to a big world of pain around me. Divorce, the loss of a loved one, sexual trauma, depression, the loss of a job or lifestyle, oppression, bullying, a diagnosis…. The list goes on and on. We can’t deny that we are growing our children in a world filled with intense fear and severe stress. A world full of evil that will eventually bring grief to our doorsteps and into our homes.
The voices in this world are telling us and teaching our children to run from grief, to pursue only happiness and run away from anything that doesn’t feel good.
Many of our children are escaping into media or turning to sex, drugs and alcohol to cope and to help them deal with the pain. Trauma in childhood can have a lasting impact, especially when the trauma is ignored or neglected. If we avoid preparing our children for grief or deny them an opportunity for grieving, there will be consequences for the entire family. Why are we waiting until our children are showing signs of suffering and struggling before we are helping them? While I go into more depth about this in the ecourse, I believe there are two main explanations for this.
- Parents are protecting their children from grief instead of preparing them for it.
- And, for a variety of reasons, parents are turning away from the sorrow they see in their children.
But if we don’t teach our children the art of grieving, the world will. And the world is teaching them to deal with pain using pills and how to cope using alcohol. The world is teaching them to find escape in media and comfort in the empty arms of someone pretending to love them. The world is teaching them to run away from challenges instead of finding the courage to face them. The world is teaching them to do what feels good instead of doing what is right. Do we want the world to teach them? I think we can agree that the answer to this question is a very loud NO! Then as parents, we must.
It is time, as parents, that we look into the face of our children’s suffering, listen to their cries, and acknowledge their pain. It is time that we help them learn to navigate the journey through grief, instead of shielding them from it and inadvertently training them to run away from it or find ways around it.
I am a homeschooling mama and have combined the ideas of Charlotte Mason and Ann Voskamp’s ‘7 Daily Rungs‘ to create our own family’s model for learning. So in teaching our children about grief, I again adopted and then adapted these two learning methods to create a visual aid using a ladder that I call the ‘5 Rungs to Healing’. These rungs are a way to get through grief and ultimately find healing through hope and joy. Each rung provides a framework for parents to help their child as they move through grief. Each rung has a part in fulfilling a need by creating an environment necessary for finding healing. Within each rung are ideas to help in creating these environments. Grief is individualized, there is no formula for grieving; so you, as parents, must select the ideas most helpful for your child and then, within this framework, begin building your own ‘5 Rungs to Healing’ specifically designed in meeting your child’s needs; and then climb rung by rung in your child’s own time and at their own pace.
Healing is not passive. There is no magic pill you can take or magic potion you can buy, and it takes more than time. Healing is a choice and it takes courage and perseverance and it takes work. For myself I have found that I am not healed. But I am always healing.
Healing is a marathon; a marathon of climbing these rungs over and over. And while there may be no finish line, there is a line that one crosses when they are able to push past the point of just surviving into being able to truly live again. This line is crossed when there is an acceptance of the loss and sadness no longer blurs one’s view of hope and joy. As parents, we must continue in creating environments of healing and persist in helping our children climb rung after rung, until their perspective changes, and their moments of joy far exceed their moments of sadness. Healing is a sacred journey through fear and anger and sadness. It is a holy journey in becoming aware of joy found only in the Presence of Jesus. It is in this moment and in this place where one finds healing.
I may be just a mom, but I believe you can be the best advocate in teaching your child to navigate the road of grief and help your child find healing. You know their story and you know their pain. And most of all, you know and love your child more than any other.
I have created an ecourse designed for all parents. Because I believe every parent should prepare their child for the ‘hard’ in life. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’ grief will come into your home. In this ecourse, I am real and I am raw in sharing pieces of our own story and I go deeper into what I’ve learned about grief and describe in much more detail ideas and suggestions on how to prepare a child for it. I go into depth on my ‘5 Rungs to Healing’ and assist in guiding you, as the parent, in creating a ladder specific to the needs of your family. I also include a book list for yourself and a book list for children that I found helpful for our family. This ecourse is broken into easily digestible sections to be worked through at your own time and at your own pace. You can watch this video on youtube.com to learn more.
I have four main hopes for this ecourse:
- My hope is that it will give you the opportunity to get to know your child even better than you already do and give you the confidence to prepare your child for the hard in life.
- If your family has already been touched by grief, then I hope to provide you with a framework for working through grief with them by learning how to create environments of healing that will help your child find healing through joy.
- My hope is that you will gain an understanding that tragedy does not have to define you or your family. Children will never get over their loss, but they can get through it, and be stronger and better people because of what they’ve been through.
- And finally, my hope through this experience, is that you will learn you do not have to fear grief. That it is in walking this road with Jesus that grief will become a sacred journey to healing. And in the end, you find you are closer to your children and have a closer relationship with your God.
The first session of this ecourse will begin on June 6, 2016 and is available for purchase at anytime for $25.00. You can go here to register.