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A Heart for Others

A Heart for Others

There is much hardship in the world. That certain “been through it” look can be detected in the eyes of pain ravaged people everywhere. It is captured in Photo Journalist’s depictions of starving children with their bloated bellies, or in the aftermath of national disasters and catastrophes, with people tearfully sifting through the rubble of destroyed homes. Lobbies of emergency rooms and intensive care units are places we see it often, as loved ones gather to strengthen each other and to mourn. When we share in the sorrows of another, we become a balm for the hurting soul, however slight the comfort may be.
Most recently I saw the same look in the eyes of a homeless man as he sat extending a pauper’s paper cup for change. His face tried to smile, but it was as if he had forgotten how. A half raised mouth corner is all he could manage, as his brow remained scrunched and wrinkled. We want to look away, to pretend we didn’t notice. It is too sad to think about; we don’t want to feel that pain along with them. Yet ignoring it does not make it go away.

Until experiencing the harsh realities of life through much anguish of heart and physical pain, and deep suffering, it is difficult to fully empathize with others. Everyone at some time must pass through the dark valley of sorrow and suffering or loss. The unifying effect of sharing in the hurt of others is synergistically powerful. Jesus was moved with compassion for the hurting multitudes, saddened over the effects of sin on the world. The now cliché, “What would Jesus do?” has never been so pertinent as it is today for our responses to fellow mankind.

The earnest desire of my heart is to do whatever I can to help alleviate the hurt that many people go through. If by God‘s love, I can erase just one scar, salve one heart, bandage one injury, or only point someone to a better life, some of my own suffering abates. Yet what is needed most is someone to enter into the hurt with us, to come along-side and weep with us–experience it with us. No words will do.

That homeless man’s response was amazing! I sat next to him on the sidewalk and we shared a candy bar. We didn’t speak much at all. His eyes brightened. Someone cared. Someone was willing to stop and feel the pain and show an understanding that, no, I don’t really know what you’ve been through. But I care. His goodbye was accompanied by a broad smile, a glimmer of hope for tomorrow.

Though I still have pain of my own, God has taught me of its benefits. The grace He gives is not to keep, but to give and to share with others. Suffering is a good teacher. It forces us to either grow, or to just break down. It teaches us of our dependence upon our loving Creator and upon one another. Once we learn of its potential: the wisdom and caring it brings, its power to unite, we no longer fear what once terrified us. Instead we reap the supernatural peace and joy that comes through relying on God for strength and comfort. He leads us through the valley of suffering that we may go back there, as escorts for our fellow man.

by Sheldon Bass

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All I Ask

All I Ask

by Christopher Lowery

Just to catch your light,
My savior that is all I ask,
Just to hear Your words,
That is all I ask.

So many times I have fallen short,
Yet to you I turn again,
Just to hear your voice
That is all I ask.

I wait till that sweet day,
My savior will answer me,
His mercy will cover me
That is all I ask.

So complete You are,
So that no one can fathom,
Yet my king please teach me,
That is all I ask.

The tears will not stop,
I try so hard to make them stop,
The hurt will not leave, please take it,
That is all I ask.

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5 Coping Skills to Help Grievers Get Through Holidays and Special Occasions

5 Coping Skills to Help Grievers Get Through Holidays and Special Occasions

The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for those of us coping with loss. Find five skills the author used to cope when her son was diagnosed with a chronic illness. The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for those of us coping with loss. In this article, I share five skills that helped me cope when my son was diagnosed with a chronic illness.

1. Schedule a Specific Time to Cry

If the onset of your trauma and/or loss is still fresh you may be like me, out of my mind in pain and crying non-stop. I decided that I needed to give myself a coping skill and that was to schedule a crying time for every day.
I would become overwhelmed with thoughts of what had happened and I could feel the crying coming on and then I’d stop myself.  I’d say, “No, you have to wait 4 more hours and then you can let it go.”  That would move my brain forward enough to get over that crying session for at least 10-15 minutes.

2. Do One Nice Thing For Yourself Every Day – No Kidding and No Excuses!

I would NOT get out of bed until I thought long and hard about the one thing that would make me feel better for just that one day.

‘Nothing can make me feel better’ was the answer that was always there but I’d push myself to pull out just one thing. Most of the things were extremely simple: taking a long bath, making a café mocha with extra whipped crème, or taking the dog to the dog park.

3. Seek Out and Attend a Local Support Group

I went online and entered the cause of my grief (i.e. brain disease, death, cancer, etc.) and looked for a link (URL) that ended in .org since this generally means it’s a non-profit and most non-profits are really set up to help. Do yourself a huge favor and find and attend a support group, even if it’s just for one time only. You can visit my web page ( ) and click on ‘Grief Resources.’

4. Find Three Things to be Grateful for Each Day

As I was grieving it was hard for me to imagine that I would ever be happy again, I just could not see it.  It occurred to me that I needed to find something to be grateful for every day.  I started with, “I’m so grateful my son is still alive.”  “I’m so grateful I was here and can be here to take care of him.” Start small with, “I’m so grateful the heat is working and my house is warm.” “I’m so grateful that I can make myself some tea this morning.”

5. Make Sure You Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Grief is extremely stressful and it takes a lot out of us not only emotionally, but physically as well. I had a real issue where I could not sleep.  But I knew that getting 6-8 hours of sleep would go a long way in helping me cope and get through the journey.  See your doctor or a psychologist for help if you find you can’t and haven’t been sleeping.
It is my sincerest wish that these coping skills that I’ve shared coupled with Mourning Expressions makes your journey measurably more bearable.

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The Culture of Grief Avoidance

The Culture of Grief Avoidance
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Grief Avoidance: What do you think about when you hear the word grief? Maybe sadness, or loss or death. Maybe you think of particular times in your life when you experienced those things. Then again, maybe you don’t think much about it at all. I’ve seen lots of folks who have only the vaguest conception of grief and they would likely describe it in negative terms; meaning it’s sort of like jury duty. You know you might have to experience it sometime, but you hope you can get out of it or around it, and if it comes you plan to stoically get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Our culture has strongly influenced our understanding of and our experience of grief. (This creates Grief Avoidance)

Our culture has strongly influenced our understanding of and our experience of grief. Grief is now generally thought of as a disease only the weak suffer from, is it not? There is a strong public notion in the phrases, “It is what it is” and “Fake it till you make it” and many other platitudes that encourage one to press on and be strong and not look back. This notion seems to be that when adversity strikes that the person who is admired is the one who is able to rise above it all unaffected. They stay positive, they keep going, they turn that frown, upside down! And when these particular qualities are prized, other qualities, which are contrary to such positive ones, such as sadness, melancholy, heartache, disappointment and grief are viewed with disdain. If you are experiencing them you must not be able to be positive, to raise above, to move on, and so you are treated with scorn or pity. Oh, it may be delivered subtly. But it’s there. I realize this is not universally true, but it is generally accurate. Our culture has lost an understanding of the value of grieving. And maybe more than lost it, maybe it has been avoided for quite some time. The message now seems to be that one must present themselves as presentable in order to be accepted. By why has grieving been rejected as an acceptable way to respond to losses?

Let’s think about it on an individual scale. When someone is grieving, they are sad. What do you feel when you are with someone who is sad or who is struggling? I’m betting that many feel a pull to cheer them up, or to fix their problem. Why? Is it simply because you feel keenly in touch with their struggle and want to help them? Actually, I propose that often it is because we rather feel awkward. We don’t know what to do with someone’s sadness or neediness, or helplessness. And if we can bring them out of it, or fix the situation, then we don’t have to feel awkward anymore. The problem with this is that many times grieving people don’t cheer up easily or their struggles don’t fix easily. It’s what separates grieving from regular sadness or even from situational depression. Grief is mostly about things that can’t be fixed, because it is about loss, not about lost and found. And since it can’t be resolved simply, many people don’t have the stomach for it. I don’t mean to be cruel. For the most part they have not had how to sit or walk with grieving people modeled for them. And they probably haven’t experienced someone offering it to them well either. What they experienced was trite-isms and expectations to get over it and so that’s what they know.

The problem is that grief is really too deep and raw for most people.

The problem is that grief is really too deep and raw for most people. And our culture is too shallow and so it drowns in those depths. Unfortunately for us, it is in the depths that maturity, character, virtue and faith grow. And so to run away from grief is to run away from what we need. When we avoid those who are grieving, we abandon those who need us, when someday we will be the one in need. For maybe we think we can run from experiencing real grief, but we surely cannot run from experiencing loss.

I believe there is a desperate need in our culture to shift our definitions of strength and weakness. Strength is not in moving on without grieving and grieving our losses is not weakness. On the contrary, avoidance of grief is based in fear, whereas acceptance of the grief process is about courage. To come back to honoring the grieving process, we must acknowledge that we have taken a self-centered and shallow approach to the terrible impact of losses. We must own that we as a culture have shied away from true helping, because it was too hard for us. Then, we need to come to appreciate the value of grieving again.

Grieving is really about facing losses and feeling the depth of the loss.

Grieving is really about facing losses and feeling the depth of the loss, rather than pretending that they didn’t really hurt us. It is about going through stages of wrestling with how to cope with the myriad of feelings and unwanted changes to life situations as well as how to go on without hardening one’s heart. Gerald Sittser in his book on loss, talks about it in terms of a kind of darkness. He says, “A willingness to face the loss and to enter into the darkness is the first step we must take.”1

I love how Sittser explains the process he himself went through and how he grew from it. His book is his own story of struggling with facing loss, and it’s a testament of courage and strength. His is one of those good models of how to grieve.

Our culture has strongly influenced our understanding of and our experience of grief.

“The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love.”2

Grieving is a God designed process that can expand our soul. By learning to appreciate this we can not only prepare ourselves for the work to come when we experience loss, but we can also bear to learn how to walk with others through their grief. Practically speaking, that means to end the trite-isms and trying to fix or bring someone out of it. But instead, honoring their struggle is to invite the negative emotions and not put a timetable on getting over their sadness. Find ways to take care of yourself, since it will be a drain on you.

For those in the midst of loss, this means simply to give yourself permission to be right where you are and not try to buck up or move on too quickly.

For those in the midst of loss, this means simply to give yourself permission to be right where you are and not try to buck up or move on too quickly. Lean into some safe people with vulnerability and open up. If they can’t bear it, don’t believe that it means you need to get over it and don’t pretend everything is okay if it’s not. It means that they don’t get the grief process. I know that it is exhausting to have to help someone learn how to help you. If they have been a good friend, it may be worth it to explain it to them or have them read something, so they can learn how to be a better friend. Just because our culture in general doesn’t honor grieving doesn’t mean that people can’t learn to do so.

Let us honor the process of grieving, and change our culture to one that honors true strength!

Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit
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Victim of Grief

Victim of Grief
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Victim of Grief : “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; You consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalms 10:14 NIV

As a victim of grief we must commit ourselves to God.

As a victim of grief we must commit ourselves to God. A victim is a person who is hurt or harmed by something or someone. Loss hurts; loss can harm. Loss can trouble us and leave us in a place of sorrow and heartache. Our anguish will never see its end if we refuse to commit ourselves to the Lord.

Committing ourselves to the Lord involves entrusting Him with our pain, handing our unanswered questions over to Him, and assigning ourselves to His care. Entrusting God with your pain is simply being honest with Him. He knows how you are hurting. He longs to comfort you, but that comfort will escape us if we are not honest about our feelings. Some try to disguise grief; some try to avoid it. We need to know that our pain does not make us faithless or less of a Christian. Pain is a normal emotion. We can entrust Him with our pain.

…Sometimes, we must be content with God’s Divine plan even when we do not understand it.

We must also be willing to live without all of the answers we may like to have. Living by faith is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; sometimes, we must be content with God’s Divine plan even when we do not understand it. The Word will comfort us as we abide in it and those questions will become less essential as faith takes over.

As you are mourning, you must assign yourself to His care. Assigning yourself to His care is nothing more than abiding in His Word. When we assign ourselves to someone’s care in the natural, we are placing ourselves in their hands. We are lodging where they lodge; we are depending on them. As we abide in the Word of God we will begin to depend more and more on Christ; this is the key to the transformation from victim to victor. Place yourself in His care; abide in His Word!

Our God longs to comfort us. He longs to help us; however, we must receive what He is offering. Let God help you; commit yourself to His care.

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Child Loss: Never Really Mine

Child Loss: Never Really Mine


He was never really mine,
this child whose birth angels foretold.
Though I cradled him in my womb for many months,
labored, gritted, bore down until he was expelled,
this child, my achievement, was someone else’s from the start.

There was never a burden so wonderful as the weight of him in my arms.
The heaviness of that little body kept all of the loose ends in my soul
from flapping about. My heart was happily tethered to him.

His scent was a hint of heaven, like a breeze suggesting
things to come. He smelled of sweet innocence and wood shavings,
bright and clean. I would breathe in all that was good and true and real
as I held his silken head beneath my chin. Joy would ignite in my chest
expanding so that I thought my heart might burst from happiness.

As I watched him grow from a boy into an awkward young man,
I was reminded of who he really was. I tried SO HARD to forget.
After all of those years, I thought that maybe God
would let me keep him, my firstborn.
Many times he would be missing and each time,
after hours of frantic searching, we would find him in the temple.

Although I wanted to warn him away, I knew that I could not.
Though my heart denied it, some small piece of me knew that was his home.
Scholars and priests were astounded and pleased at his understanding.
I saw in them the gleam of greed as they angled to make him
their protégé. If he wasn’t really mine, he certainly wasn’t theirs either.
That realization assuaged some small part of my feelings of loss.
I even had to smile at these men, so unaware that they
were unaware. And I, a poor woman of an obscure tribe
could see what they could not.

A young man grew into a man of no small influence.
He began to wander, speak, heal. I felt him slipping from
my grasp. My heart cried, “Not Yet! I need more time!”
It took scrabbling through crowds of sweaty, dusty
men just to catch a glimpse of him. I had to elbow my way
to the front so I could hear the low, clear timbre
of his voice. His voice was the song of my soul.

Oh how the people loved him! Fickle, Fickle fools!
He was no threat to you! He desired no wealth, no fame,
no acclaim. Your robes may be white, but there
is blood on your hands!

As I stand here beneath him at the foot
of this barbaric cross, I can see
that he is very nearly gone. My
entire life’s purpose has been caring for
him and here I am helpless.
As his mother, I can offer no comfort, ease no pain.
The flies surrounding him have greater power than I..
At least they can touch his beautiful face, the
cheeks that I’ve kissed many thousands
of times. I would give my very life to
kiss him one last time, but I can’t reach even
the soles of his feet.

As he breathes his last breath, It takes
every last bit of my reserve to
draw one more. It
would be far easier to stop breathing
with him.

This is not how I thought it would end!
My soul is torn; my heart is crushed!
Where is God in all this? Why send an angel to
herald his birth and then let my son, HIS son
be murdered at the hands of greedy cowards?
How can my greatest gift become
my greatest source of grief?

My heart, the heart of a mother, will
forever expect him to stride through the door.
I will forever see him in my dreams and long
never to wake. As I stroll the market,
I will remind myself to breath when
I remember he isn’t here to enjoy
his favorite meals. I will strive
to remember every contour of his face.
I will search my memory straining to recall
the sound of his voice.

Others will whisper, there is Jesus
mother. Maybe they will believe that
he was a traitor, but I will know the truth.
I will hold my head high.
My precious little boy was God‘s own son.
By a miracle I conceived, by a miracle
I was chosen to carry the Christ.
Though I may grieve all the days of my life,
I will find beauty in the sorrow.
My son was never really mine alone.
But I will see him again on the other side
of eternity, and he will be the king in Heaven
that I thought he would be here on earth.

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Mom Is Dying: A Son’s Love

Mom Is Dying: A Son's Love

My sister called me at work and informed me that mom is dying.

In late March of 2013, my mom who had been in a nursing home for about four years, health took a bad turn. She was in the final stage of renal failure. My sister called me at work and informed me that mom is dying. We didn’t know when. She could live for weeks or months. I started to visit her daily after work and kept my sister updated on my mom‘s condition.

At some point Hospice was called to help keep her comfortable. My sister had talked to me and told me not to tell my mom that she was dying.

One day when I was visiting my mom, she was confused and asked me what was going on. I told her that Her health was going real bad. She didn’t understand and was afraid. I did my best to encourage her and went home.

That night I prayed and asked God what to do.

That night I prayed and asked God what to do. God answered telling me my mom deserved to know what was going on. God told me how to approach my mom and tell her she was dying. I prepared myself for what would be the hardest thing I have ever done. Rising to God‘s call to offer my mom hope and peace.

The next day at work I thought about it all day long and told God I can’t do it. Who am I to prepare my mom to meet the Lord? I realized there is no one else and it was my duty to do it. If I loved my mom, I would do it.

After work I went to visit my mom with my bible in my hand and asked not to be disturbed, that I needed to talk to my mom. I think the people at the nursing home knew what I was about to do.
I walked in and my mom was crying. I pulled up the chair and cried with her. She was confused and afraid. It became clear to me that I had to tell her in order to clear up her fear and confusion.

I asked her if she remembered what she learned about Heaven in Church. I took her hand and started talking to her about what Heaven would be like. I read scripture to her about there being no more sickness or disease. I showed her verses about how we would get new bodies that would never fail.

As I continued, I felt the presence of God in the room. Still holding her hand, I told her that Jesus is getting ready to take her hand and lead her to Glory. I noticed right away that her confusion and fear had lifted.

I went on to tell her she needs to think about what’s coming for her. Not think about leaving me.

My mom looked down for a minute and then looked up at me saying she didn’t want to leave me. I explained to her that it isn’t her choice. That it is God‘s will and she has to accept it. I went on to tell her she needs to think about what’s coming for her. Not think about leaving me.

As her time drew nearer and nearer, she lost consciousness but was still here. I talked her as though she were awake. I told her when God calls her, to leave and not look back.

On Thursday April 25, 2013, my father and I arrived because her time was very near. I sat next to her bed and watched her breathing get shallow. I talked to her and told her I was there. I held her hand and at 6:30 P.M., Jesus took her hand and lead her to glory.

I knew that God has transformed my mom, giving her a new body that will never fail. She knew until the end that I loved her. God used me once again to help her until it was time to let her go.

Preparing my mom to go be with the Lord was the greatest act of love there is. If I had to do it again,I would without hesitation.

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The Loss of a Child: A Picture of the Heart

The Loss of a Child: A Picture of the Heart

Love filled my heart as I watched my husband holding our newborn son in his arms.

Love filled my heart as I watched my husband holding our newborn son in his arms. He gazed at his tiny form with a warm expression of tenderness. As we shared that love, an image was etched on my mind that would become a precious memory. In the wonder of that moment, we were unaware that Kevin would be with us for only a few days. As I look back, pleasant and sad memories start to emerge, but with new meaning now. These memories were not forgotten but were stored away in my heart.

Del and I had two children when Kevin was born. We enjoyed the first day of excitement on the arrival of our third child. As we held our baby, we noticed how much he resembled his brother and sister. We marveled at how God made each of our children with their own identity, yet with a likeness of our family. From that day Kevin was born, his calm and quiet spirit was evidence of a gentle personality. Naturally, my affection for him began to grow and I couldn’t wait to take him home.

The next day, the nurse told us that the doctor wanted to talk to us. A look of concern was displayed in the doctor’s eyes. “We suspect that your baby has a problem regarding his heart,” she said, “We’d like to keep him for a few more days to take some tests, then we’ll send him home with a heart monitor.” And that was the way we thought it would be.

After answering all of our questions, the doctor reassured us that she’d keep a close watch on him throughout the night. I remember the nurse asking if I had noticed a blue hue to his complexion. I had noticed his little features and wisps of platinum blond hair, but only his eyes were blue.

I looked at my baby as he snuggled content in my arms. Gently I touched his soft cheek, then handed him to the nurse.

Early the following morning, Del nudged me to wake up. Kevin had to be taken to a heart specialist for a cardiac catheterization. “This is hard for me to tell you, but I discovered that the left side of Kevin’s heart is abnormal with incomplete valves. Since this is the major side of the heart, there is nothing that can be done to save his life. He has only a few hours left…I’m terribly  sorry.”

We could hardly believe what was happening. We looked at each other and our hearts were crushed with anguish. We felt so alone and confused. But the Lord had never intended to leave us alone. He used the heart specialist to meet that immediate moment of distress. She not only explained that he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (a malformation of the left side of the heart) but she showed an unusual amount of empathy toward us. She had lost a child the same way a year earlier and understood how devastated we were. Her personal experience helped her identify with our situation.

Soon after we called our pastor. He came immediately. His presence was fresh with God’s compassionate love and concern for us. After he went to see our baby, he stayed with us and prayed, and shared several verses from the bible. During that time of waiting, the Lord sustained us through the pastor’s love.

About an hour later, the doctor returned. Thee was a distinct sadness all around us. I knew…Kevin had peacefully gone to heaven to be with God. When I went home, my arms were empty and so was my heart. At the funeral, I stared through clouded eyes at the small white casket which held my baby whom I would never hold again. All I could do was remember him as I last held him in my arms. Even though I understood that my baby would be with God. I couldn’t deny the tremendous loss I felt. I thought I would never feel normal again.

During the months that followed, depression battled with my perspective on life. 

During the months that followed, depression battled with my perspective on life. My husband and I were already going through a time of uncertainty. Our lives were balancing on the border of living our own way or choosing to follow God. Now that we had lost our baby, whatever newly-developed faith we had was now being shaken.

Ultimately, the Lord stayed close to my aching heart, and in my grief I turned to His waiting, open arms. As I was drawn closer to Him, I found emotional healing through His Word. I especially found the Psalms to be tranquil to my grieving spirit. God’s word became my consolation. Faithfully, He revealed His presence through the compassionate love of others. Through their prayers, concerns, and encouraging Scripture verses, I was gradually lifted to life again.

Since then we have had another son and daughter. But the few precious days we shared with Kevin will never be forgotten. Just like our four other children, he’s a part of us. The moment of love that my husband and I shared with our baby is always vivid in my mind, and my heart sometimes aches for him still. But we have his picture to remember what he looked like, and we will always have his memory. His memory will be kept in our hearts until we see him again in heaven.

Going through this experience has given my life a different meaning.

Going through this experience has given my life a different meaning. Although the process of sorrow was emotionally painful to endure and the depression was overwhelming, it turned out for good–that I may know God “who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 cor. 1:3, NIV). My heart reaches out to share the comfort God gave us. We were touched in a way we would never have known if we had turned away from Him. But He was there waiting.

He knew what we would need in our time of sorrow. He gave us peace beyond understanding–a peace that conveys a picture of the heart of God.

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A Mother’s Loss

A Mother's Loss
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A mother‘s heart
Beats with her child as one
God saw your heart
As he took back his son.

His ways are above us
To us they seem unclear
where o death is your sting
In christ we have no fear.

You silently wept
when your childs life, God closed the doors
And God shared your heart
when he said “my ways are higher than yours”

Their was no time
To say your goodbyes
But Jesus was their
When he closed his eyes.

What is life? when death is our cause
To meet our father in heaven
To hear the angels applause.

Your son fell asleep
And is waiting patiently
for the day when his king
will set his spirit free.

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Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

Early intervention during times of loss and grief helps keep children psychologically healthy and prevents the development of later emotional problems.  Understanding the stages of grief can help caregivers provide quality care to children.

Caregivers never want young children to have to learn about death. They want to protect children from pain and loss. But, child care professionals cannot shelter children from death. Early intervention during times of loss and grief helps keep children psychologically healthy and prevents the development of later emotional problems.
Although children cannot speak about their feelings and emotions like adults can, they still grieve. Even young infants under six-months-old grieve. For example, infants have deep relationships with their mothers and they grieve when their mothers are absent.

Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

For infants, six-months-old to two-years-old, there is a more specific process of grieving. At this age, children are able remember and visualize their mothers and learn that they are separate individuals from their mothers. Children may protest and withdraw to the absence of their mothers. Children may become depressed and no longer seem interested in toys, food, or activities.

The loss of a mother becomes more devastating as children are able to grasp the specific difference of their relationships with various members of their family. Grief is often expressed by regression, such as clinging to others, wetting the bed, or wanting the bottle back.

Adults often fail to recognize the impact of loss on children and this can result in anxiety. With the loss of a mother, the very security of the family is disrupted and children may believe that their own survival is at stake.

Death of a parent can lead to withdrawal, irritability, and severe depression. But, there are certain factors that can influence the outcome of childhood bereavement.

Such factors involve:

  • Communication between children and adults about the causes and circumstances of the death.
  • The nature of the surviving relationships in the family.
  • The support given by the family.
  • Children exhibit their feelings through play and fantasy. Children will share their feelings at unexpected moments and often with only a phrase or sentence. This is an opportunity to help children talk more about their feelings.
  • Grieving continues for many years for children. Since children do not have the strength to deal with the pain in its full intensity, a great deal of the pain may be turned inward. Their pain may be expressed in misbehavior such as: seeking attention, talking back, losing concentration and motivation, or decreasing school performance.

There are common stages that everyone experiences after the loss of a loved one. Mourners may not experience the stages in any particular order and there is no pre-determined time limit of how long someone may grieve.

Stage One: Shock and Numbness: Even when death is anticipated, the immediate feelings following death are shock, numbness, a sense of disbelief, and denial. Denial is a defense mechanism. But the denial that protects a vulnerable and shocked ego must slowly give way to the reality of loss.

Stage Two: Separation: Separation leads to a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and isolation. Emptiness is the sense of being diminished from within. Loneliness is the sense that one’s surroundings are also empty of people who matter or care. Isolation is the sense of being divided from others.

Stage Three: Disorganization: The anxiety of separation involves a process of disorganization and a fear about the future. The fear and the disorganization are caused by uncertainty, about functioning in a different role, and the changes that are necessary after the loss of a significant person.

Stage Four: Rebuilding:  Integrating and rebuilding is when death becomes a reality. Although the loss is sad it is seen as a challenge and people develop new strengths.

It is wise for child care providers to encourage parents to consult with a child’s pediatrician to discuss loss of a child’s loved one. The pediatrician can suggest ways to help a child and provide specific ideas about what kinds of behaviors to expect, depending on what stage of development the child is in.