Doing the work

Day 86 from my book “Living and Dying”

Someone once said, “When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” Rituals help us to experience and express our deepest thoughts and feelings about the great events of our life. The funeral ritual has always been a public tradition that enables us to experience and express our faith, as well as our beliefs and feelings about a loved one who has encountered death.

I tell the story of the five-year-old constantly pulling at his mother’s dress as the minister conducted prayers over the casket and open grave. After the prayers were concluded, the minister came over to talk to the mother and the little boy. He asked the boy what the fussing was about. Without any hesitation, he walked over to the hole in the ground and pointed down into the grave at the grave box ready to receive his grandmother’s casket and asked, “Is that Heaven?” Out of the mouths of babes come the most amazing things.

I recall the evening we had to tell our five-year-old son that his Nana died. His response as he sat there in reflection of this information was, “Well, I guess that’s the end of her.” We laughed and it was good. He loved her very much, but he hadn’t had the many years we had had to establish a relationship with her. His five-year-old mind processed very clearly the information conveyed, it was simple to him.

I tell parents over and over, our grief is directly proportionate to the number of years we had shared in a relationship. Although it may have been a special relationship, a five-year-old does not have the emotional or the time investment in the relationship that we do and therefore, one should not expect too much struggle. In my advice to parents I suggest they deal with children at the child’s level, telling them as little as needed and only answering the questions they ask. They will ask more later if needed. Perhaps the most helpful thought I can offer is, as their parent, they are most concerned about you. Your reactions and non-reactions will be their barometer to how they react and behave. You are the focus in their lives when stress and struggle appear. If you are struggling, all they need is some assurance and honesty, and they will respond appropriately.

There is much information out there about the developmental stages of children and their response to loss, and most of this information is very good. Just remember you are the one they want to see healthy, happy and safe. If you do the work necessary for your healing, they will be fine.

”Blessings on you journey”

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