15 replies, 3 voices Last updated by Michael Porter 1 year, 9 months ago
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    • #5431

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Last week there was a document “A lipstick, A Ribbon and Gray Clay: Creating Grief Rituals for Children” that was up. I don’t see it now so am not sure if we are to reflect on it or not.  But I printed and read it and found it helpful so am going to go ahead and reflect on it.  On the first page one thing that really stood out for me was the comment about how children are very sensitive to being left out and how being left out/excluded can be interpreted them as rejection.  This emphasized for me the importance of including children in the  funeral/memorial services as they are developmentally able.  I have always promoted this, but this knowledge of how children react to exclusion really helped solidify why it is important.  It also got me thinking about what we do for memory boxes in the case of pregnancy loss and infant death.  We do all these memoriablia things for the parents, but this comment makes me wonder do sibling feel excluded if we do not create something just for them – especially if they were aware of at a significant level of the pregnancy.  It could be a simple as making sure each sibling had their own copy of the foot prints we take.

      I also really appreciated the comments about creating ritual around non-death grief. It has given me a whole new take on things like Preschool, kindergarten and elementary graduations.  I hear so many comments about how having a graduation for every movement of significance in school make high school graduation less meaningful.  I’m not sure that is the case – these graduation rituals serve not only as celebrations, but also I think in a way an important way of saying good bye of meaningfully marking a this significant transition.  I causes us to pause and acknowledge all the feelings, including grief that come with life transitions.

       

      Kinetic-House-Tree-Person Drawings Reading:

      In reading the Trauma Response info sheet, my first thought was this is helpful information, but only so much as I am also aware of how this would look in kids of differing ages and development.  The behavioral responses is one that I believe affects kids so much, because they don’t always have the words to express what they are feeling, but they sure can show us with their behavior.

      I’m going to be honest here, I’m struggling with the whole tree and drawing part.  Partially because the dates on the research sources are so old, I can’t help but wonder – does this still hold true in our modern context – especially with children who have so many other influences now related to technology and given the research about how technology use can re-wire children’s brains in different ways.  Sorry to be so cynical, but it was my first thought.   I also must admit to having a hard time translating this to children’s grief and art.  The interpretation seems fairly high level and the drawings pretty advanced – I wonder how does this translate to working with kids who are just barely drawing/coloring.  I can see some how the topics can apply, but I wonder do they really apply directly or in more broad general way?

       

      Just some of my thoughts to get things going.

       

      Joy

    • #5434

      Michael Porter
      Participant
      @mkporter

      Thank you Joy, I too saw the article, printed it and read it.  I too was drawn to the exclusion and alienation of children when it comes to death.  Adults/Parents think they are protecting children by not including them in to death process.  When they do they leave the child to his or her own thought and ideas of what is happening.  They do not understand what is going on around them and even within themselves.  They are left to formulate their own understanding which may be influenced by what they see on T.V., video games, etc.

      So often I experience parents shielding their children to what goes on around death because they are reflecting their own hurt and discomfort with the loss and grief onto the children.  Maybe the adults struggle with grief because they were “protected” from it when they were children.  Adults can be an  example to children and support them through the grief and help them express it as they move through it.

      I know I am speaking to the choir, but grief is a natural response to loss.  Children need to know their response is natural and need to be free to express themselves.  So true is the statement, “Exclusion from the grief rituals is confusing to children and denies them the opportunities to receive comfort from their own grief …”

      Mike

    • #5435

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Good morning all. Thanks Joy for starting our conversation. I, too, read the A Lipstick, a Ribbon and a Gray Clay” article. I have dealt with both sides of things. Adults who want to shield their children from everything. Had a situation where a single mother died leaving an adult son and a 17 year old emotionally delayed daughter and a 9 year old daughter. The family had very little resources so the mother was to be cremated. The adult son told his sisters that he didn’t want them seeing their mother. After talking to him about their need to tell their mother goodbye since there would be no other time to do that with her physical body – he understood and handled it beautifully. And then there are the adults who carry young children in to the ED so they can “kiss their grandma goodbye”. Children need a place to put all their emotions and if we don’t give it to them in a constructive way – they will find a place that may not be so healthy or constructive.

      I had not thought about grief in graduations. We adults tend to be so excited about “starting kindergarten” or “being a high schooler” or getting into a college or even graduating and getting a job – that there is grief in leaving things behind. It seems that the older I get the more I like predictability – so I’m sure that children too deal better with stability and being able to find those “steady in the boat” people/places. That’s what we do with rituals. It gives kids a place to put their fear, doubt, anxiety and know there are adults who will be there with them through it.

      Like Joy, I was rather confused by the tree illustrations. They are rather dated. I am curious about kids who live in the city where tall buildings are more prominent and trees are those things we have to scout out rather than just look up and see. Would the analysis be the same? Would they even show up in a drawing? I live in the Midwest surrounded by nature (thank you God) but just curious about that.

      My experience in dealing with children in grief is really limited. I know a woman who works for our Hospice agency that deals solely with children in grief and is quite gifted. I rely heavily on her talents. I guess I’m spoiled that way.’

      Thanks for walking with me on this journey of discovery.
      Mary

    • #5438

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mike,

      You are spot on about how adults comfort level with death and grief influence how they believe children should be exposed to death and included in grief rituals.  As we have become more death avoidant, I wonder how that impacts children.  It makes me wonder if when working with children who are grieving if there should be parent/child opportunities to grieve together in a way that is facilitated by a trusted person outside of the grieving family.

      Along side this I think we would be remiss if we did not also raise the question of how culture plays into children’s grief, particularly when looking at immigrant families who may still have very close ties to the practices of their country of origin.

       

      Joy

    • #5439

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mary,

      You raise a good point about well meaning parents who insist on children seeing the loved one at minimum or encouraging them to “kiss grandma goodbye” as you put it.  It is easy to think as adults or parents we know best, but if the child is clearly showing resistance to going in the room – not wanting to “kiss grandma” etc. then we need to listen to them.  I am coming to learn that children are very smart and know what they need/want in that moment.  It is the same on the other side – wanting to keep them from the room when they are insistent that they want to be there.  I think as chaplains this is where we can be very helpful as facilitators in the moment of crisis.

      Thank you for your reflections on the tree piece.  I had not even made the connection to how that may not translate to city kids who have very little exposure to trees/nature.

       

      Joy

    • #5440

      Michael Porter
      Participant
      @mkporter

      Thank you Joy.  I agree with you, we need to listen to children – “Children are very smart and know what they need/want at the moment.”  When parents ask me if they should take their child into the room to “kiss grandma good bye” I tell them they know better than I do how their child will respond.  I ask them about how the child responds to different situations he/she has experienced – did the child know “grandma” was sick – what kind of relationship did the child have with “grandma” – etc.  I then encourage them to have a discussion with the child before going into the room – let the child know what happened – as the child if he/she wants to see “grandma” etc.  If the child wants to see “grandma” the I and the staff help explain what the child will see when in the room.  I encourage the family to let the child do, say, ask whatever he/she needs to.

      When I started in Chaplaincy, among the resources my predecessor left me was a stack of pamphlets from Fred Roger’s Family Communications entitled Talking With Young Children About Death.  I found this to be very helpful in helping families talk about a child’s grief.  I have given a number of the pamphlets away and have only a few left.  You can Google Fred Rogers and the topic and find some good information.  How can one go wrong with Fred Rogers?

      I found the K-H-T-P Drawings interesting.  I knew that allowing children to draw helps them express what they are feeling and where they are at, but I have not pursued any understanding of it.  I have had a couple of children draw and then used what they drew to have them talk about what it meant.  I have not analyzed a picture to the extent of what is presented in the article.  This is helpful to maybe give some insight to where a child is at, but I tend to let the child tell me through the picture.  I do remind you I have only done this a couple of times and it has been a while ago – and I recall it was helpful.

      Mike

    • #5441

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Good morning Joy and Mike. Another thing that struck me in these discussions and as Joy has pointed out – the technology. The video games that kids play where people “die” but not really. And all the TV/movies these days of death – and yet the actor/actress shows up in the next movie that comes out. I heard a parent ask a teenager once if they had ever had been around death. They said “no” but clearly it is all around them. So – I’m curious about how “real” death and “movie” death gets translated in a child’s mind.

      Thoughts????

    • #5442

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Thanks Mike for the Fred Rogers info. I’ll check it out.
      Mary

    • #5443

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mike and all,

      I just looked at the Fred Rogers information.  There is some good things there.  Thank you for the resource. I found a very helpful downloadable sheet called “When someone your child loves dies” I looks very good, easy to understand and only two pages so short.  I think that is something to consider when giving parents resources – they need to be easy to use, read and not long.  The parents are grieving too and that will affect their ability to process any information we give them.

      I approach working with families in talking with their children in a very similar way.  I had not thought about asking more specifically the parents to share how children respond to certain situations or about the relationship with the person who died.  Those are excellent questions that can help parents discern the most helpful path forward in terms of saying good bye with the children.

      You make a good point about how helpful just having a child draw a picture and tell you about it can be.  I think this approach also might help provide insights into cultural (both ethnic and family culture) influences that may be there already from how the child is being raised.  Because I am not an analyst or expert in art therapy this model of having them draw and then tell me about it seems much more accessible.  It also strikes me as something parents can do with their children at home as well.

      Joy

    • #5444

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mary,

      This is such a good point about video game and media portrayal of death and particularly violent death.  For kids who live in areas where there is a great deal of violence I wonder how that plays into their concept of death and what other layers of feelings get wrapped up in that.  I don’t have clear answers but in our very techology connected society where we are bombarded with images daily it is something that needs to be considered.

      I would guess the child’s developmental age plays a part in this.  But I think we also need to be careful to not make assumptions about where a child is developmentally based on only their age.  Case in point: When we lost our second pregnancy at 14 weeks the nature of the loss and issues with the fetus meant I had to have a medically necessary termination.  We did not tell our daughter who was 2 1/2 at the time anything more than the baby died and was not ever coming home and I had to see a special doctor to help get Baby Hope out of my “tummy.” I had been doing mommy and me swim classes with her at the time.  When we picked her up from the friends house that took care of her the day I had my procedure she asked me if we were going to go swim as that had been the routine, I told her yes, but that Grammie would be getting in the water with her.  She then told me “mommy can’t swim because Baby Hope died.”  Needless to say I was floored at the connection and our parents as teachers mentor was as well, that is not a typical 2 year old response or connection to be made.  People told me don’t worry about your daughter, she won’t remember much, actually she remembers quite a bit from that week, things that can only clearly come from her own memory.  So I guess my point is while there are over all expectations based on development and what is common, we need to be careful as well because not every child is going to fit the patterns.

      I’ll stop here for now.

       

      Joy

    • #5446

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Good morning y’all. In looking at some resources I came upon this one. It is a booklet written by a funeral director (who is also a grandfather) to help children who are grieving. Thought you might like to see it.
      https://www.bereavementadvice.org/globalassets/pdfs/bac/taking_children_to_funerals.pdf

      Mary

    • #5447

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Here is another one.
      https://crhcf.org/insights/how-arts-and-crafts-help-children-express-grief/

    • #5449

      Michael Porter
      Participant
      @mkporter

      Mary, with regards to your thoughts about “real” and “movie” death, I agree death is all around them whether it is in the movies, video games etc.  As you mentioned the characters are not rally dead.  I think this could lead to children becoming numb to death.  They see it, but do not really understand it.  In video games the death of an individual is a step to winning the game.

      I think movies etc. also affect adults.  My experience at the hospital is that some people believe that people are not supposed to die.  I have been with people who have expectations that there is a cure for everything.  We recently had the family of a 90 year of woman who had a number of health issues.  Doctors were telling family that she would not have any quality of life.  Family continued to insist more be done.  I was recently with a family of a person who died in the Emergency Department.  The family sat in the room with their loved one for almost six hours talking with her and stroking her as if who where still alive.  I know this is part of their dealing with grief, but it seemed as though the death was not real for them.  The struggle adults have with death is passed on to the children.

      Mike

    • #5450

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mary,

      Thank you for passing on these two resources.  The booklet is very good and I think comprehensive, I particularly like that it addresses that kids may grieve again as they hit other developmental and age mile stones.  What I like about the crafts resource is it is something that could be passed on to parents to do at home together with their children.

      Joy

    • #5451

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      Mike,

      I think what you said about how adults grieve is passed on to the kids.  I think this is key to remember for those of us who are working primarily with adults who asking about how do I help my child through this.  We may need to explore with the adult some of this stuff to help them understand what their children may reflect back in their own grief process.

       

      Joy

    • #5452

      Michael Porter
      Participant
      @mkporter

      You are right Joy.  When parents ask me how to help their young children I tell them not to hide their tears and feelings.  This shows children that it is okay and opens the door for them to do the same thing.

      Mary, thanks for the resources – great stuff.

      Mike

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