In February, The Wise Family shared a group blog post about grief and loss. I’d like to revisit that topic today.
It has been more than two months since my family and much of the country began social distancing. Throughout this month at home, I have seen and experienced feelings of loss and grief – loss of normalcy and routine, loss of a sense of safety, loss of connecting with others, loss of important family events and milestones, etc. When the feelings of sadness, fear, uncertainty and discomfort begin to overwhelm me and those I love, I lean on my knowledge and experiences from my work.
I have learned the most about supporting children experiencing grief and loss during the past four years by serving as a therapist during National Police Week’s Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) Kids/Teens. This program, which would have taken place this week but was cancelled due to COVID-19, provides grief group therapy for children and siblings who have lost a relative to a line-of-duty death. In addition to providing a safe space for participants to explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding the death, the program aims to connect children with one another and strengthen/develop support systems.
Each year my colleagues and I work to plan meaningful and relevant sessions in the hopes of helping the children learn about grief and loss and become comfortable with wherever they are on their grief and loss journey. While I hope each child leaves the program with useful knowledge or helpful experiences, I am certain, I learn from them each year and am a better therapist, parent, and person as a result.
I’d like to share one specific exchange that occurred during a group discussion on the challenges they have faced and ways their lives have changed since losing their loved one. One 12 year old girl in the group, who had lost her father, said “The hardest thing for me is talking about my dad to other people. I want to talk about him because I love remembering him but I always end up having to comfort other people. When I say my dad was killed everyone gets really uncomfortable and no one ever knows what to say so I end up telling them that everything is fine and they don’t have to worry. It’s a lot of work and it makes me tired. So now I just don’t talk about my dad.”
My heart broke for this girl because what she wanted and needed to talk about was her dad. Unfortunately, other people’s discomfort with the topic of grief and loss prevented her from doing that. I get it, talking about death isn’t fun. It is hard to see someone hurting and it is even harder to know what to say. Still, it is not the grieving person’s job to put everyone else at ease.
Instead, when talking to someone experiencing a loss, I invite you to be honest and say something to the effect of “This situation sucks! How can I help? Would you like to talk about your loved one? I am happy to listen.” Those are the words (maybe not exact) I used with that young lady. She smiled and said, “Wow, I don’t have to make anyone here feel better. We all know it sucks. Let me tell you about the time…”
I find this exchange going through my mind a lot because I realized that, like the grieving young lady stated, “we all know it sucks” right now. Everyone is feeling loss in some way and it is uncomfortable and messy and scary.
There are steps we can take to mitigate the situation, but as a whole we don’t have control over many aspects. So, while we are in a place where we are all having a similar experience, let’s join together (virtually) like the kids in the C.O.P.S. program do and share our experiences.
If you are struggling during this time and need support, The Wise Family is here for you! We offer Online Therapy Services via a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform. We are only a phone call or text away! 1-844-WISE FAM or text ‘wisehelp’ to 66866.
Until next week, Be Wise!
“Amy is like Oprah – she’s the neighbor you love who is very, very smart”— Parent of 14-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter
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We read through your website from start to finish and were so impressed by your extensive credentials and training but, the real reason why we want to work with you is your clear enthusiasm for children and families and the wisdom and deep love you share for both!— Mom of 12-year-old child with special needs