3 Steps To Helping Your Child Understand And Process Grief

Grief is devastating for anyone.

As an adult, you have an advantage in grieving. That advantage is your brain development.

All things being equal, by the time your brain is fully developed (around age 25) you have learned how to process grief. If you haven’t encountered grief before, hopefully you have learned to seek help in processing your grief.

Children’s Brains Struggle To Process Grief

For a child, the lack of brain development means that processing grief is very difficult.

For an undeveloped brain, comprehending death and the existential issues around it, is extremely difficult. Adults struggle with this. So children will struggle even more without the tools yet to be developed to help them.

Grief In Children Resurfaces At Each Developmental Stage.

The younger the child, the more undeveloped will be their ability to process their grief. It is now known that grief in children will resurface at different stages in their childhood and even into adult life.

It is important to be aware of these difficulties and be ready to support your child.

The developing brain is learning. That is how the brain develops. But without support, the brain cannot learn. The brain needs to learn how to process Grief.

Attending To The Trauma Of Grief

Grief is a trauma. It is dysregulating. A child experiencing grief will be thrown into a major fight/flight/freeze stress response. They will also lose their connection to others and feel very isolated and alone.

Many people think they just have to sit their child down and talk to them and that will help. But a dysregulated brain can’t learn or reason so talking to a child in this situation will not work.

The 3 Steps

There are 3 steps to reaching your child and helping them to learn how to process their grief.

The steps are as follows:

Step 1. Regulate

The first thing you need to do with your child is help them regulate their fight/flight/freeze response and become calmer.

One of the best ways to do this is to be as calm as you can. Research has shown that children cope well with traumatic events when their parents remain relatively calm and can maintain as much as possible regular routines. The main thing is that your child feels safe. They need to feel that you can still protect them. In a world that has just fallen apart with the loss of someone important, knowing you are still there is vital.

Do the best you can

Obviously, if you are grieving as well, it is going to be hard to regulate yourself. You are likely to be crying and finding it hard to focus.

This is the pain of parenting. There are times when you have to put your own needs aside to attend to the needs of your children. It is natural for you to do that, and it may be necessary. But don’t put off attending to your own needs for long. It is okay to be crying when you seek to regulate your child.

After all, your child needs to see you grieving to learn it is okay to be sad and cry, but life still goes on.

One of the best ways to regulate is to hold your child. That helps them to feel safe and also gives you a sense of safety as well.

Step 2. Relate

Holding your child is part of the next step as well.

You help your child to regulate, to feel safer and still cared for.

Now you help them by establishing a connection. Holding your child will help them feel connected to you. This will mean they feel less isolated and alone.

Being Attuned To Your Child

Relating also involved being attuned to your child and their needs. It means you will stop and seek to understand what your child is thinking and feeling. Depending on their age, this may involve (when appropriate) making a general statement such as:

“It is really sad and frightening that x has died.”

This would work best for a young child who may still be learning to understand their emotions. Acknowledging what you sense they are experiencing helps them to feel understood.

For an older child you may ask them what they are feeling. Or you may wonder if they are feeling sad because you are.

It is important to not hide your feelings and allow your child to see you are sad too but that your sadness won’t stop you caring for them.

Be Attuned For A Long Time

Remember that I earlier mentioned that grief in children takes longer and is revisited at each developmental stage.

It is important to keep that in mind. Even after the initial period of adjustment to death your child will continue to grieve.

Always make sure you seek to understand your child. This maintains a connection between the two of you and is also comforting for your child. An attuned parent is one who provides safety and security. Something all children need, but grieving children need it more.

Step 3. Reason

Once your child is regulated and secure in their relationship with you, you can then reason with them.

You can support your child to express their feelings should they want to. You can support your child according to their developmental stage to reflect, learn, remember, articulate and learn how to live with their loss.

How Do I Support My Child To Learn?

There are many aids you can use to help you support your child through their grief. These aids will help them to learn healthy ways of processing grief. This will serve them well now and in later life with other losses.

There are many age-appropriate books you can read to your child. Your local library is a good source of these. If you send your child to a counsellor many will have these resources as well. I have a range of books I use with younger children.

For teenagers, who are already exploring the more existential issues of life as part of their teen development, a more existential approach that emphasises philosophical discussions mixed with some helpful facts about grief and its impacts is really helpful.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you and/or your child/ren will need help from a grief trained counsellor. It can be very helpful to learn what is normal in grieving both for yourself and your child. If you need help, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please
click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Live Life. Don’t Just Survive

Here, right now, stop.

Breathe deeply in and allow that breathe out slowly.

Breathe in and out a few more times.

Turn your attention to your heart centre.

Maybe you would like to place your hand over your heart.

Ask yourself the question:

Am I just surviving, or am I living my life creatively?

The Curse Of The Modern World

With the busy lives that are led in the modern world, it is easy to get caught up in just surviving. Rushing from activity to activity. Never stopping, never relaxing, never just having fun. Never allowing yourself to use your creative side to enrich and grow your life.

Scientists who study our ancient ancestors contend that once people were able to move away from spending all their time surviving, they had time and space to be creative. It was this creativity that allowed them to expand their lives and further improve their situation.

It was this time for creativity that allowed our ancestors to become farmers, then to devise new tools and weapons. This creativity allowed progress to occur.

Growing Creatively

In order to grow this way, our ancestors had to allow space in their lives to allow creativity to work.

When you become caught up in surviving, you lose that ability to expand your life and improve your situation. You get caught up in surviving. That is a scary, anxious place. It is a place where your quality of life deteriorates.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. You need to allow creativity back into your life. Creativity feeds your mind and your soul. It should work alongside survival, with its focus on your body.

Yes your body needs to survive, but so do your mind and soul.

Finding The Balance Between Survival and Creativity

Finding that balance between survival and creativity is essential for a happy, full, productive life.

One of the ways you can survive and be creative is to meditate. It is that action of stopping and allowing yourself to just be. In this moment. With nowhere to go. With nothing to do. Just be.

At the start of this blog I invited you to have a moment to just be. At the end of that moment, I invited you to ask yourself a question about how you are living your life.

It is in the moments that you stop and just allow yourself to be that allow you to find space for creativity in your life.

After you meditate and clear your mind to allow that sense of just being, there is a time for creativity to allow yourself to connect to your creative inner self. Your soul.

Connecting To Your Creativity

There are many things you can do. Some people write a journal. Some people write poetry. Others dance to their own sound or music.

Then there is painting. This is my preferred method of creativity. After I meditate I use water colour paints to paint what comes up for me in that moment.

This act of creativity has allowed me to discover deep insights into my life and my place in this world. This has allowed me to live, not just survive.

I run workshops to teach people this method of meditation.

Do You Want To Know More?

If you would like to find out more about meditating and creativity, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

PaintingYourSoul

I Just Want to Vent. Why do people want to give me advice?

I think we have all been there. I certainly have. You just want to vent about something and all you get back is advice. It leads you to feel that you haven’t been heard and makes you feel worse.

Maybe you have found yourself in a position of giving someone advice when they didn’t want it. It is easy to do.

Unfortunately we live in a society where we are encouraged to give advice and not listen.

So how do you change that?

How do you ensure you don’t fall for the giving advice trap?

How do you ensure you will be allowed to vent without getting unwanted advice?

  1. If someone is venting to you listen. If you feel you have a helpful opinion or advice to give then ask if it is okay to share it. If they say no then don’t give the advice. Just listen.

When you listen, pay attention to what they are saying. Don’t try to construct some response you think will be helpful. While you are constructing that response you are not listening.

Just listen. Let them know you are listening. Acknowledge how difficult/ frustrating/ upsetting what they are describing is/was.

  1. If you want to vent to someone, ask them first if they are in a position to listen. If they say no, then don’t vent to them. This ensures you don’t dump all your stress and emotions onto another person who may not be in the right space to hear you.

When you need to talk to someone it can be hard if you can’t find anyone to vent to but keep trying. There will be someone who will listen. Remember it is also hard if you are not in the space to listen if someone vents to you.

Communication is about respect. Respect the other person who is venting to you. Respect the other person who may not be in a position to hear your vent.

How to hold space for another person, and have space held for you in return

Have you ever had this happen?

Something momentous has happened. Maybe you just got your dream job. Maybe you accomplished something you are proud of. Maybe you are feeling down. Maybe you just want to share your thoughts with another human being.

You talk to another person and they don’t respond as you want. Maybe they jump in with their own story, not even acknowledging yours. Maybe they rush to tell you how to sort the problem, when all you wanted was to be heard. Maybe they said something negative.

It is really hard when another person doesn’t listen.

What you want is for someone else to hold the space for you. To honour you in that moment. To see you. To really listen actively by focusing on your and respecting you enough to pay attention to what you are saying.

Sharing your story is a bid for connection. People make these bids all the time. But those bids are often ignored. When that happens you can feel invisible.

It is really important to give other people time and space to express themselves. And it is really important other people give you that time and space as well.

It is easy when chatting with another person to get caught up in telling your own story, just as they can find they get caught up in telling their story and now hearing your own.

Sometimes you just need to listen. At other times the other person needs to listen.

When you are having a conversation with another person, try to put thoughts about how you might reply out of your mind and just focus on what they are saying. Give them empathy and love because that is usually what they are seeking.

It is important to honour others with your presence.

It is also important that others honour you with their presence.

A good friendship has give and take. Sometimes you listen and hold the space for them. Other times they listen and hold the space for you.

If you find your friend is always expecting you to hold the space and never holds the space for you then maybe it is time to find another friend.

Honour yourself and set healthy boundaries.

Hold the space for others, and expect them to hold the space for you as well.

If you have things going on in your life that you need to talk to with something and be heard, and you can’t find anyone to do that, you can see a counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you see me, I will listen, offer empathy and love, and help you make sense of your problem. I will never tell you what to do.

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz