Get Help Now!  (312) 655-7700
 

Newsletters & Articles


LOSS Program Office
721 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Main Line: (312) 655-7283
Fax Line: (312) 948-3340

Featured this Month:

Empty Space
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
After a spouse’s suicide surviving parents may look into the rooms of their home and see remnants of a family life that is upside down. As a family begins to acclimate to the disorder posed by the beginning of the grief journey, it might be useful to realize that a world where meaningful structure has been disabled by a traumatic loss adds an element of strangeness in familiar spaces. A teen told the story of a washing machine that was delivered on the day that his father died. (Silverman and Kelly, 2009). The washer was going to be installed by his dad. The boy said that after his father’s death it sat in the hallway for months, and every time he looked at it, he wondered how his mother and siblings were going to manage.

This vignette speaks not only to disruption, but to stalled meaning. We don’t think much about our washer as long as it keeps up with the pace of our family’s needs. We count on it because we value our readiness to face the demands of our dynamic lives. But when a loved one dies by suicide, parents may feel too stunned to recall the meaning of the routines and activities, the tools that facilitated their lives and filled their days with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. The immediate aftermath of suicide includes the bewildering puzzle of time and meaning. What to do with it?

Another example is the dinner table. Children in grief sessions have been known to draw the empty chair that was left behind by the deceased loved one. The silence of this space at the table can speak loudly. In response, we can rotate our seats. Again, disruption, and it seems a little crazy. But we find ourselves doing such things as a rational response to the numbing void of loss and the unresolved state of our new lives.

Our bereaved children’s grief processes are unpredictable. They have lost their innocence about the permanence of relationships. Their grief concerns the loss of the parent as well as a confrontation with their own mortality. And their grief is a little different at each developmental stage, but still does not conform to any patterns we can anticipate. A teen may want privacy around his or her grief, then later feel critical of you for not having spoken of her deceased father in a while. School aged children may avoid painful feelings with constant use of video games or sports, but is their agenda to sideline their grief so that they can keep an eye on your stability? Younger ones may verbalize little about the loss, but react with a tantrum when it is time to turn off the TV. We learn that their little losses are really about this one life changing loss. It stays just beneath the surface.

The absurd quality of a life that has been changed by an irrational act leaves the details that previously structured our lives to now feel burdensome and meaningless. We eat fast food, instead of preparing dinner. Our teens seem to find comfort outside of the house, rather than at home. Our rambunctious sons seem quiet now. We long for closeness with our children, yet feel slightly estranged as we come to grips with the change in all of us. Few of us have coping skills for profoundly changed reality. Does it help if we talk about its strangeness? I think it can be helpful to acknowledge how different much of life is after loss as long as our children don’t get the message that they are responsible for our confusion. The identification of contrast can be grounding. We must anticipate it as part of the grief process in order to feel normal and to console ourselves and our children.

Self-help literature for recovering addicts and co-dependent adults espouses the need for structure and order in personal spaces as a requisite for healing. It is one of the essential ways to focus on responsibility for our own well-being and growing awareness. I remember a judge directing one of my youth clients who had recently gotten into trouble that he must make his bed each morning, a minor, repeated task that became a metaphor for the new day and the young man’s role in it. The point is meaning construction: “I am still here. I am slowly picking up one piece at a time of my family’s life.”

After we have begun to ground ourselves with rest, a support system and basic order inside the house, we can focus on the conundrum of our bereaved children’s unique needs within their developmental moment. Joe Biden, in his recent TAPS talk about his grief, attested to his reluctant observation that good can grow out of tragic loss. He identified “bonds of steel” that developed between himself and his young sons after the death of his wife and baby daughter. He said that he knew he was going to make it only by noticing that his worst days were occurring farther apart. Reconstruction after loss of a loved one is arduous, focused, dedicated work. For ourselves and our children, disorder and void will be reshaped into meaningful order with remembrance and intention.

Fortunately, LOSS offers services to adults and children of all ages. Fortunately, there is plenty of literature to guide bereaved families through the strange, unfamiliar terrain of grief. We can allow ourselves to “feel my way along the wall,” (Rilke) and not give up on creating an understanding space for ourselves and our children to come to terms with profound loss in their own way. We are their witnesses.

Silverman, P.R. and Kelly, M. (2009): A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children; Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One. Oxford University Press.


Archives:

Empty Space
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
After a spouse’s suicide surviving parents may look into the rooms of their home and see remnants of a family life that is upside down. As a family begins to acclimate to the disorder posed by the beginning of the grief journey, it might be useful to realize that a world where meaningful structure has been disabled by a traumatic loss adds an element of strangeness in familiar spaces. A teen told the story of a washing machine that was delivered on the day that his father died. (Silverman and Kelly, 2009). The washer was going to be installed by his dad. The boy said that after his father’s death it sat in the hallway for months, and every time he looked at it, he wondered how his mother and siblings were going to manage.

This vignette speaks not only to disruption, but to stalled meaning. We don’t think much about our washer as long as it keeps up with the pace of our family’s needs. We count on it because we value our readiness to face the demands of our dynamic lives. But when a loved one dies by suicide, parents may feel too stunned to recall the meaning of the routines and activities, the tools that facilitated their lives and filled their days with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. The immediate aftermath of suicide includes the bewildering puzzle of time and meaning. What to do with it?

Another example is the dinner table. Children in grief sessions have been known to draw the empty chair that was left behind by the deceased loved one. The silence of this space at the table can speak loudly. In response, we can rotate our seats. Again, disruption, and it seems a little crazy. But we find ourselves doing such things as a rational response to the numbing void of loss and the unresolved state of our new lives.

Our bereaved children’s grief processes are unpredictable. They have lost their innocence about the permanence of relationships. Their grief concerns the loss of the parent as well as a confrontation with their own mortality. And their grief is a little different at each developmental stage, but still does not conform to any patterns we can anticipate. A teen may want privacy around his or her grief, then later feel critical of you for not having spoken of her deceased father in a while. School aged children may avoid painful feelings with constant use of video games or sports, but is their agenda to sideline their grief so that they can keep an eye on your stability? Younger ones may verbalize little about the loss, but react with a tantrum when it is time to turn off the TV. We learn that their little losses are really about this one life changing loss. It stays just beneath the surface.

The absurd quality of a life that has been changed by an irrational act leaves the details that previously structured our lives to now feel burdensome and meaningless. We eat fast food, instead of preparing dinner. Our teens seem to find comfort outside of the house, rather than at home. Our rambunctious sons seem quiet now. We long for closeness with our children, yet feel slightly estranged as we come to grips with the change in all of us. Few of us have coping skills for profoundly changed reality. Does it help if we talk about its strangeness? I think it can be helpful to acknowledge how different much of life is after loss as long as our children don’t get the message that they are responsible for our confusion. The identification of contrast can be grounding. We must anticipate it as part of the grief process in order to feel normal and to console ourselves and our children.

Self-help literature for recovering addicts and co-dependent adults espouses the need for structure and order in personal spaces as a requisite for healing. It is one of the essential ways to focus on responsibility for our own well-being and growing awareness. I remember a judge directing one of my youth clients who had recently gotten into trouble that he must make his bed each morning, a minor, repeated task that became a metaphor for the new day and the young man’s role in it. The point is meaning construction: “I am still here. I am slowly picking up one piece at a time of my family’s life.”

After we have begun to ground ourselves with rest, a support system and basic order inside the house, we can focus on the conundrum of our bereaved children’s unique needs within their developmental moment. Joe Biden, in his recent TAPS talk about his grief, attested to his reluctant observation that good can grow out of tragic loss. He identified “bonds of steel” that developed between himself and his young sons after the death of his wife and baby daughter. He said that he knew he was going to make it only by noticing that his worst days were occurring farther apart. Reconstruction after loss of a loved one is arduous, focused, dedicated work. For ourselves and our children, disorder and void will be reshaped into meaningful order with remembrance and intention.

Fortunately, LOSS offers services to adults and children of all ages. Fortunately, there is plenty of literature to guide bereaved families through the strange, unfamiliar terrain of grief. We can allow ourselves to “feel my way along the wall,” (Rilke) and not give up on creating an understanding space for ourselves and our children to come to terms with profound loss in their own way. We are their witnesses.

Silverman, P.R. and Kelly, M. (2009): A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children; Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One. Oxford University Press.