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Featured this Month:

Attending to Family Grief
Friday, April 01, 2016 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
Grief really is a family process.  It is private, but also influenced by and shared with family members.  When families use our LOSS Program for Children and Youth we meet unique configurations of individuals that are differentiated by birth order, temperament and personality, gender and age, family role and relationship with the person who died.   After a suicide the caregiver or parent is faced with a sense of need on the part of all of her children at once; yet each one may be presenting differently.  And there is a range of grief responses among children as well as adults that are influenced by developmental stage as well as the attributes I’ve mentioned.  So, how do you attend to the different needs of your bereaved children?  They are watching you in your grief, and you are setting an example for authenticity, hopefulness and the ability to compartmentalize your emotions as your care for those who depend on you.  You begin the process of rebuilding your family by questioning and attending to each child’s loss needs and developmental tasks.  You can reflect to each child what you see and hear as they respond to their loss, and also model self-care, and valuing of genuine grief expression.

You may be asking, “Why is one child clinging, while another never wants to talk about the loss?  Why don’t my children sleep in their own beds anymore?  Is it normal to see anger and avoidance on the part of my bereaved teen?  And why are my children watching me in a way that they haven’t before?”  These are common questions asked by bereaved parents as they begin to cope with the emotional adjustments of their children after a devastating loss. You, in your own state of grief, may find a new urgency in parenting your children.  In the wake of loss, old structures of family life may require flexibility or change or reinforcement, and this requires assessment and energy that may feel in short supply as you cope with your own grief.  The LOSS Program for Children and Youth is available to listen and consult with caregivers who are learning to balance their adult grief needs with those of their children.  Our individual, family and group services are resources to help with the unique needs of each family bereaved by suicide.  And this column offers five minutes of monthly support, whether you are reading this in the middle of the night or during your demanding day.  Understand that grieving families share certain challenges, although each family is characterized by unique lifestyles and unique relationships with the person who died.  As caregivers negotiate this new terrain, we hope to extend the message that while grief is extremely difficult, it is a normal, healing experience when young or old give voice to the loss experience.  Hopefully, home is the place that can hold these expressions.

We can attend to the diverse grief experiences of our children by fostering a culture in the home where the expression of grief is normalized and valued, but not pressured. This is more about the way the thoughts, emotions and needs of grieving children and teens are understood and responded to.   Each person or child may be responding to the loss very differently.  Depending on the relationship with the deceased, a child or teen may feel anger or a sense of abandonment, rather than simple sorrow and happy memories.  So, when new behavior challenges or unpleasant reactions to the loss are observed, surviving parents or caregivers can learn to attend to the grief as it is, without trying to change it.  People of all ages experience healing when their grief responses are validated: With attending, pain can be acknowledged with quiet attention, eye contact or touch, or simply, “I know.”  When we are fully present to a child’s expression, we are attending to them in important ways.  Attending may precede a parent’s behavioral redirection or discipline, but in the moment, it is not about correction or change.  Attending means we are fully aware and observant in a way that is respectful and compassionate.  We suspend our own agendas for the moment.  Attending asks questions that are not judgmental or reactive.  It takes practice, self-awareness and patience, but is, perhaps, the most important gift we can give to our intimate relationships.  Attending allows us to nurture and support our loved one’s individual experiences and development.  Who does not want to be seen and heard as a unique individual within any of life’s circumstances? 
  
After a parent or sibling dies by suicide, the loss impact is sudden and confusing, and everything in the life of a survivor is informed by the loss.  This means that school work, sports, mealtime, bedtime, social life, sports, holidays and vacations and every milestone or decision will be associated with memories, meaning and a sense of the loved person’s absence.  So, regular, easy references to the person who died can set a tone and context for spontaneous expression as the family begins the series of adjustments to the loss. Try understanding a child or teen’s recent cynicism or anger as related to grief, and see if conversation can help him or her to connect the attitude or world view with the loss.   Learn about suicide so that you can help an angry, bereaved child understand that suicidality is a complex, deadly mental crisis that overcame  your loved one’s ability to think clearly about solutions or consequences for those that he or she loved. This may bring some relief to anger and blame.  Build a sense of timeless connection by relating the child’s positive attributes or accomplishments to the person who died:  “You have your dad’s aptitude for math; When you show patience like this, you remind me of your mother; I really counted on your brother to cut the grass when he was alive, and now I feel lucky to be able to count on you.” Honor your child’s privacy, but ensure that he or she has outlets for grief.  And while changes in sleep arrangements may have taken place in response to the trauma, you can give messages that everyone is trying to heal by temporarily sleeping together, but returning to our own beds is also a sign of safety and health.

Parents can support themselves in practicing skills that promote healthy grief and family development by reading books and articles and seeking out a source like the LOSS Program to learn from counselors and other bereaved parents and caregivers.  A suicide loss has disrupted your precious family system.  The LOSS for Children and Youth will offer support as you shepherd your children through grief and loss.


Archives:

Attending to Family Grief
Friday, April 01, 2016 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
Grief really is a family process.  It is private, but also influenced by and shared with family members.  When families use our LOSS Program for Children and Youth we meet unique configurations of individuals that are differentiated by birth order, temperament and personality, gender and age, family role and relationship with the person who died.   After a suicide the caregiver or parent is faced with a sense of need on the part of all of her children at once; yet each one may be presenting differently.  And there is a range of grief responses among children as well as adults that are influenced by developmental stage as well as the attributes I’ve mentioned.  So, how do you attend to the different needs of your bereaved children?  They are watching you in your grief, and you are setting an example for authenticity, hopefulness and the ability to compartmentalize your emotions as your care for those who depend on you.  You begin the process of rebuilding your family by questioning and attending to each child’s loss needs and developmental tasks.  You can reflect to each child what you see and hear as they respond to their loss, and also model self-care, and valuing of genuine grief expression.

You may be asking, “Why is one child clinging, while another never wants to talk about the loss?  Why don’t my children sleep in their own beds anymore?  Is it normal to see anger and avoidance on the part of my bereaved teen?  And why are my children watching me in a way that they haven’t before?”  These are common questions asked by bereaved parents as they begin to cope with the emotional adjustments of their children after a devastating loss. You, in your own state of grief, may find a new urgency in parenting your children.  In the wake of loss, old structures of family life may require flexibility or change or reinforcement, and this requires assessment and energy that may feel in short supply as you cope with your own grief.  The LOSS Program for Children and Youth is available to listen and consult with caregivers who are learning to balance their adult grief needs with those of their children.  Our individual, family and group services are resources to help with the unique needs of each family bereaved by suicide.  And this column offers five minutes of monthly support, whether you are reading this in the middle of the night or during your demanding day.  Understand that grieving families share certain challenges, although each family is characterized by unique lifestyles and unique relationships with the person who died.  As caregivers negotiate this new terrain, we hope to extend the message that while grief is extremely difficult, it is a normal, healing experience when young or old give voice to the loss experience.  Hopefully, home is the place that can hold these expressions.

We can attend to the diverse grief experiences of our children by fostering a culture in the home where the expression of grief is normalized and valued, but not pressured. This is more about the way the thoughts, emotions and needs of grieving children and teens are understood and responded to.   Each person or child may be responding to the loss very differently.  Depending on the relationship with the deceased, a child or teen may feel anger or a sense of abandonment, rather than simple sorrow and happy memories.  So, when new behavior challenges or unpleasant reactions to the loss are observed, surviving parents or caregivers can learn to attend to the grief as it is, without trying to change it.  People of all ages experience healing when their grief responses are validated: With attending, pain can be acknowledged with quiet attention, eye contact or touch, or simply, “I know.”  When we are fully present to a child’s expression, we are attending to them in important ways.  Attending may precede a parent’s behavioral redirection or discipline, but in the moment, it is not about correction or change.  Attending means we are fully aware and observant in a way that is respectful and compassionate.  We suspend our own agendas for the moment.  Attending asks questions that are not judgmental or reactive.  It takes practice, self-awareness and patience, but is, perhaps, the most important gift we can give to our intimate relationships.  Attending allows us to nurture and support our loved one’s individual experiences and development.  Who does not want to be seen and heard as a unique individual within any of life’s circumstances? 
  
After a parent or sibling dies by suicide, the loss impact is sudden and confusing, and everything in the life of a survivor is informed by the loss.  This means that school work, sports, mealtime, bedtime, social life, sports, holidays and vacations and every milestone or decision will be associated with memories, meaning and a sense of the loved person’s absence.  So, regular, easy references to the person who died can set a tone and context for spontaneous expression as the family begins the series of adjustments to the loss. Try understanding a child or teen’s recent cynicism or anger as related to grief, and see if conversation can help him or her to connect the attitude or world view with the loss.   Learn about suicide so that you can help an angry, bereaved child understand that suicidality is a complex, deadly mental crisis that overcame  your loved one’s ability to think clearly about solutions or consequences for those that he or she loved. This may bring some relief to anger and blame.  Build a sense of timeless connection by relating the child’s positive attributes or accomplishments to the person who died:  “You have your dad’s aptitude for math; When you show patience like this, you remind me of your mother; I really counted on your brother to cut the grass when he was alive, and now I feel lucky to be able to count on you.” Honor your child’s privacy, but ensure that he or she has outlets for grief.  And while changes in sleep arrangements may have taken place in response to the trauma, you can give messages that everyone is trying to heal by temporarily sleeping together, but returning to our own beds is also a sign of safety and health.

Parents can support themselves in practicing skills that promote healthy grief and family development by reading books and articles and seeking out a source like the LOSS Program to learn from counselors and other bereaved parents and caregivers.  A suicide loss has disrupted your precious family system.  The LOSS for Children and Youth will offer support as you shepherd your children through grief and loss.