Children and Spiritual Pain at Christmas
For me this topic hits home. As I reflect on Christmas when I was a child, the memories are a mixture of pleasant and pain. When I was 10, my Dad died. That was the line of demarcation between pleasant and pain, what was and what is, then and now.
If any family could have totally messed up grief and mourning it was mine. I know the adults in the family were well-intentioned, but what a mess it was. My grief counsel was “brave boys don’t cry” and “you are now the man of the house”. Being a compliant kid that I was I didn’t cry. I had no idea how to be the man of the house so I put that one on the back burner. The fact was that my family had no idea how to handle a sudden death which my father’s death was. He came home from work with terrible chest pain and died a few days later at the hospital. There were no warnings of any physical problems, it just happened. A wise person once said, “The death shapes the grief.” The shape of our grief was intense at first and then silence. It just wasn’t discussed. So, we three kids (my older sisters and me) were left to ourselves. There’s more to the story, but that is not germane to my point in this article.
Should you be suffering the loss of a loved one and you have children, may I gently suggest a few actions to take that might bring a measure of healing to your children’s wounded hearts?
- Kids need words. I longed for my Mother to talk to me about how she was feeling and what she would say to me in my pain. That never happened. Kids need words.
- Kids benefit from rituals. Light a candle, say a prayer, donate to a hospital that focuses on the illness that your loved died of, go to church/synagogue.
- Kids need routine. What you’re going through is not part of your daily schedule, but as much as is possible, keep a routine. Your child will benefit from that. Believe me, there was no routine in our grief journey.
- Kids do not grieve as adults. It’s just different for them. Talking about what happened may come sooner than later, but expect it to come later than sooner. Within a year of my Dad’s death, my Mother had to have gall bladder surgery. I stayed with my Aunt and Uncle during that time. I lay awake at night wondering if she would die, too. Grieving is a tough journey for kids.
- Kids benefit from hospice grief counsel for children. If you do not know how to help your child with grief, please contact your local hospice. They will have someone who specializes with children’s grief.
- One last thing, time will NOT heal this wound. Your child needs tools to work her way through this process.
I do hope your Christmas is merry. But, it isn’t and it is because of the loss of a loved one, my heart goes out to you. If I can help, I am happy to hear you and connect you with someone with a focus on children’s grief. Blessings for comfort and peace.