This is our first Q&A episode in which we answer some tender questions about grief.
What is going on when we are in grief? What should I say to someone grieving? Is this ever going to get better? How do I help?
Grief is a process that all of us will experience at some point in our lives. It can happen in response to the death of someone we love or the loss of a dream or a hope we have held. There are things to know and things to do to help ourselves deal with grief and support others as they walk through it. Resilience is built into each one of us, even when we are facing the deepest sadness and knowing that, can help us face some of our toughest times- together.
What You’ll Learn on this Episode:
- How grief is defined
- The 6 stages of grief and how we can help at each stage
- How to Provide a safe space for ourselves and others to express our emotions – How to support our children through grief and empower them with choice and control
Mentioned on the Show:
*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.
This is episode number six and we’re starting another little element of our podcast here where we’re able to take some questions from listeners and see if we can bring you something that might help illuminate or speak to the question. And I’m going to be doing these once a month or maybe throw them in every couple of episodes. So I’ll be asking for your questions. We’ll see how this goes. I’ll be asking for your questions, and I’ll let you know at the end of the episode today how you can submit them. So the first pass that our question and answer time together is a question that I’ve received multiple different times in the past few weeks, I’ve been asked how do I deal with grief? And here are a few of the questions that I received. I lost my dad a couple weeks ago and haven’t been able to get back to normal. I don’t really understand grief or what’s happening. Is this ever going to get better? Does grief ever resolve? Here’s another question regarding helping our kids through grief. How do I help my daughter? Her good friend from school passed away a couple months ago, and I’m really worried about her. And then one more that talks about loss that isn’t a death, but is still bringing on that experience of grief. My sister is going through a divorce and grieving. How can I best support her? So I thought that for our first discussion, we’re going to address this topic of grief. What grief is and what we can do to help ourselves and others through it. And so first, I think I need to give you kind of a framework for how I personally come to this topic of grief.
And I hope this isn’t too much information, but I wanted to share it with you because I do have a specific viewpoint from my own experience because I have experienced a lot of loss in my life. And most of it occurred when I was younger. In fact, in a tier span of time, I lost all the men in my family. Now, I come from a very small family, had a mom and a dad and a brother. So that may sound a little dramatic, but I want you to consider that from my perspective, it really felt like that. Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, my grandfather, my great grandfather, my father, my brother and his two best friends, and my aunt all passed away. And for me, it felt like an avalanche of loss that impacted every corner of my life. Not only did it impact my life directly, but it impacted my mother’s life in what I still think was a much grander scale, which in turn then further impacted my life. I had my own grief and I had my mom that I worried about who was dealing with the loss of her husband and her sixteen year old son and those other relationships she had.
So for the longest time in my work professionally, I actually avoided specializing in grief because it always brought up so much kind of pain for me. And it is a vulnerable spot in my psyche and we can say in my internal world. And because of it, I feel like I’ve had to really learn to love myself a little more compassionately and allow myself room to not specialize as a grief counselor. But life just kind of has a way of happening to all of us, doesn’t it? And loss and grief can’t be avoided altogether. Not only have I worked with clients through grief, many many of them, everyone I know and everyone I love have experienced some kind loss that’s caused them a level of pain or we could say a level of grief. And so we don’t have to specialize in grief to be dealing with it. And I’m not just talking about me as a therapist. I’m talking about you all as moms, as spouses, as daughters and friends. All of us end up having to know how to deal with grief at some point. And so I I hope that this I know this is kind of a heavy topic. I really did question whether I should drop it in the line up here. But because of those questions and just a feeling that I had that it was the right time, To talk about it, I hope you’ll bear with me, and I think that this hopefully can be a positive educating experience for us that will be better equipped to know how to handle this part of life. So the way I look at grief is that loving and grieving kind of happen together. Because we love and care about people or even we care about our dreams and our hopes, we feel the pain when we lose the presence of those things. So as we talk about how to deal with loss and grief, I don’t expect that any of us will become experts, but maybe we can become more confident and maybe just a little less fearful about facing it.
When you have a loss or experience death, you get through it. At least, that’s what I remember someone telling me when I was younger. You’ll get through this. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get through it. The pain was really deep and it felt so encompassing. If I get really quiet and remember really carefully, I can still recall that heaviness and the fear I felt inside like I would never be light or carefree or happy ever again. My grief felt like I was being rolled on the bottom of the ocean floor by a huge wave. And that feeling of being underwater, unable to breathe, not knowing how to get free of that pressure. I’m wondering if I can ever make it to the surface again just to get a breath. That phrase get through it meant for me to keep reaching for the surface and to keep struggling to breathe. It was said to me in a really comforting way actually by someone I greatly admired. She didn’t tell me how I was gonna get through it. She couldn’t because she didn’t know. But she did say it was such faith and conviction. I do remember holding tightly to those words.
Grief is very often compared to and described as a wave or rather a series of waves. And we actually can help ourselves and those we love keep reaching for the surface as we are dealing with grief. So as we talk about grief, I don’t know where any of you are in your lives. That’s the hardest part of this podcast platform. I can’t see you or know your individual circumstances. So there may be some of you who are dealing with your own grief. Having that feeling like you’re underneath that wave of water, so far beneath the surface. And I wanna be respectful of that. This is a short time we get together in this podcast, and I’ll only be able to give a bit of information. It may not feel like enough. But hopefully, we can open up a dialogue and a little bit of an understanding about what grief is and how we can help each other through the grief process.
I share this with you as just one person and her experience and viewpoint on how to deal with grief. And I hope that as we discuss this topic, you will allow in your own minds the freedom to think about this the way you need to think about it. And let’s just lay this out there. Right now, when I give you my opinion on any of these questions, and answer topics or any topic or give you my thoughts. I want it to be known that this is just one version and it’s my version and it may be helpful and it may not resonate with you, and all that’s okay. I want you to always remember that you are whole, you are valuable, and you are wise. And you can trust yourself to know what is good and helpful for you.
So let’s get back to our questions. What is going on when we are in grief? What should I say to someone grieving? Is this ever going to get better? How do I help my daughter? How can I support my sister? First, let’s just take a minute and honor the painful feelings that are underlying these questions and say upfront, we are not looking for a fix here. Maybe this is lesson number one in grief. Grief isn’t something that needs to be fixed. I guess if it could be fixed, that there was a magic wand that erases the painful feelings, we would all pay whatever the cost to get the wand and make the pain disappear. I would. But it’s not real. That’s not possible. We can support and love people through grief though, and we can learn to accept that love and support for ourselves when we are the ones grieving. So let’s address the first question. What’s going on during grief?
By talking a little bit about what loss in grief are, I’m hoping we can kind of at least get an overview about what we know about grief and how humans experience it. The American psychological association defines grief as the anguish experienced after a significant loss, often the death of a beloved person. I would add that grief is the process by which we deal with such a painful loss. And I want to emphasize the word process because grief actually occurs as we walk through the multifaceted aspects of loss. Maybe we also have to define loss. Because I think at first glance, we assume that grief has to do with the death of someone. And certainly, that’s the traditional situation in which we grieve. But I want to suggest that grief is also a process that occurs after the loss of anything that is important to us. I’ve walked with people in grief when someone they love has died, but also as people have been trying to conceive, and have a baby and haven’t yet been successful, or when they’re dealing with the loss of their health or their job, or really any big dream. A breakup. Sometimes our grief over breakups can be really, really painful.
So as we talk today, I’m gonna specifically focus on grief over a death, but I want you to hold space in your mind for grief of all kinds. Because I think the way we walk through it and treat it and support people as they go through it, it’s going to be very similar. So point number one is that we’re not trying to fix grief. And point number two would be understanding that grief is a process. And that it’s a way that our brains mark or make sense of the impact of the loss. The word process is a term indicating that there isn’t just one feeling going on. In fact, grief experts have identified up to seven stages of grief. And there’s a couple different versions out there.
But I think to answer the first question, what’s happening when we have grief and how can we help? I want to give you just a super fast crash course in grief education. I’m always going to want you to have the core knowledge so you can understand it and apply it as you need to. So as I list the stages, I want you to try not to think of them as perfectly linear. That’s how we’re gonna talk about them, but want you to think more about them like the points of a star if you were to draw a star on a piece of paper when you started a point and your pencil goes you know, down and across and over and around. When you draw that star, that point to point movement isn’t in a linear order. And often these stages of grief do that, which can be confusing if we think that everything should be happening in an order. And here are the stages according to the grief leaders, Elizabeth Kupler Ross, who’s kind of the most well known and has been around for a long time, and David Kessler, who’s a little bit newer on the scene. And here, here they are. I’m gonna list them. We have the stages listed as shock. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finally, finding meaning. So let’s break these down into the stages and maybe a little bit of what we can do to help when we hit those stages.
So when we first get the news of a loss, there is often shock. Your mind is a hard time hearing the news and it helps you by flooding you with these neurochemicals that kind of buffer the feelings. And this feels very different to how we normally feel. I’ve heard it describe that I kind of go away. I went away inside, like, deeper into our minds to get insulated. And and this certainly isn’t something that we do on purpose. This is thing that our mind does for us. It gives us this distance, and shock is a protective feature that gives our mind time to process information. That is hard. And then, our mind may wanna push the idea away to make it not true, and this is called denial. This shock and denial is actually a very important dance that your mind does to help you handle the information. It takes it in the shock and then pushes it away, the denial. It’s the way that those little bits of information can trickle in so we don’t have to have that overwhelming feeling of facing it all at once. Not a conscious decision, just a natural kind of protection that happens in your mind. And it can feel very strange, very otherworldly and out of control. And when it’s happening to someone we love, it helps to know what’s going on. Because at this stage, what people need is our presence, our steadiness. They may need an arm to hold them up physically. They may need you to help them get information or clarify something that someone has told them, but they can’t quite remember it or hear it. You may need to be a protection for them and help them with basic decisions that are just too overwhelming for them to deal with.
The next stage listed is anger, and it’s often another emotion that comes up. Anger that this is happening anger that you feel so helpless, anger at someone, at yourself, at the person, at god, at no one specifically. Anchors a way that we may naturally try to get some control back. It isn’t a bad sign. It can be a very natural sign. And that doesn’t mean that you have to feel anger. It’s just not surprising if you do. And remember this isn’t linear. Sometimes people are angry, right up front, first thing and other times that anger comes later. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to come at all. It can come and it can ease once again.
Not supposed to be any certain way. At this stage, we need to feel what we feel. Just like any of the stages, we may need to talk about it vent, ask questions. Every feeling you have is okay. We can provide safe ways for people to be angry, and safe is important. There are many safe ways to express anger. We can talk about it. We can hit a pillow. We can sit in the car and scream. Go for a run, writing it out, art, anything that helps you express that feeling is probably as long as it’s safe, it’s very good for you. Your body wants to act when it’s in fight mode. And you’ve just experienced a loss or someone you love has that triggers that fight or flight mode. So doing something physical can actually help.
As helpers it may be hard to see someone we love feeling such painful, big feelings. And they may have anger. They may they may feel irritable. They may be less patient. And this is important for us to remember with our kids too. We can tell our kids it’s okay to feel angry and we can help them think of way to express that anger that will also keep them and others safe. This is gonna be a theme that we’re hitting, is letting letting us feel what we feel. So we just kind of have to dial that deeply into this concept of grief.
Bargaining is another stage in which our mind searches for ways to change this, to try to think of anything that could have been different, that we did or that might have changed the outcome. Once again, a very natural way for our brains to try to get some control over a helpless feeling. And this is often where we’ll think in circles, going over options that might have been or things we could have done or imagining things that could make this a different outcome. At this stage, we’re really fortunate if we can tell our thoughts and feelings to someone, and we are just as fortunate if someone we love will tell us. When they’re going through this stage. Because it helps to say it out loud. It helps to get another perspective on it. If only I had I think I said that phrase a hundred times as I went through this stage, trying to recreate the past so to avoid the outcome. When I said it out loud to my friend or to my mom, it felt good to get it out there and it also allowed me to see it from another angle.
We can listen to these thoughts and then reflect back the love and even the things that the person cares about that we hear in the statements. If you remember our talk on values. You’re gonna hear what people really care about when they’re talking about their feelings and can always point them back to the thing that they care about. Sometimes, especially with our children, we can clarify that it wasn’t their fault, that they aren’t responsible for what happened. Kids are eco centric in their thinking, which means they still see the world as being an extension of themselves. And this often means that they blame themselves for things that are definitely not their fault. And actually, even as adults, we do this too. Right? So it can help to hear any thought that your child or your loved one or even yourself if you’re going through that loss might be having about this and gently clarify for them. That it wasn’t their fault.
Another stage of grief is depression, or what I also just label as deep heaviness and sadness. We get a little confused sometimes when we hear the word depression. There’s like a clinical depression or a feeling when we just have very little energy in our our sadness is so heavy. And this is where we start to experience the full emotion relating to loss. It’s the stage that many of us fear. For ourselves and for those we love, it’s just so hard to feel so deeply sad. And it can feel like the energy or meaning in life has been taken away. It can be really scary because it’s so big and hard and kind of we can worry that it’ll stay this way forever. I I mean, I think that was part of question, am I gonna ever feel better?
I remember the year my father died. I had a very dear teacher who I was close to and spent many afternoons talking to. And in my heavy sadness, she told me many times, it will get better. You are going to be okay. It will feel better one day. Hang in there. I’m here. Wow, I get choked up remembering this. How much I held on to her words and her willingness to hold on to me as I was going through it? She was right. The deepest intense pain did ease. And as I processed my grief, I came to be able to have a new normal. But she never tried to talk me out of the pain.
This is one of the most important steps in working through the grief process. So many of us try to avoid this stage or help other people get out of it, maybe even too quickly. When you have a loss, it’s going to bring a sadness. And that’s going to feel heavy. People need people in this stage, maybe more than ever. This stage often hits hard after the funeral and after all the initial support has been given. When other people are returning to their normal lives, this stage usually hits really hard. And this is why we need to keep showing up for the people we love and support.
Acceptance is the next stage and it sounds so easy. Doesn’t it? Oh, acceptance is next. Oh, good. Thank heavens.
But in my experience, this isn’t linear. It bounces around. We can have acceptance on day one and bypass the shock and denial and then find ourselves in shock and denial days or weeks later because our mind and body grief in layers. And we experience what we can and then we have a new layer open up. And time and life gives us experiences that trigger our grief. That first year, especially after a loss, a loss of anything. But especially a death of someone we love, it brings a lot of things to us as reminders, anniversaries, holidays, and the grief cycle can feel like it’s repeating. So I think knowing about stages are very helpful it can help us understand that we are going through a process and it’s very normal and very human and it’s not supposed to look any certain way.
And this is what I want to say to other people. There is no right way to feel. There is no right way to grieve. You are allowed to feel how you feel. And this is what I would call point number three. There is no right way.
There is a final stage that David Kessler has added. He’s the researcher who worked with Elizabeth Cupola Ross on teaching the five stages of grief. And then later in his life, he had his own young adult son die, and he went through all the stages himself as an adult. And later wrote about the last one. That’s when he added meaning. He believes that the task for all of us is to make a new meaning and a new relationship. With the person that we love that isn’t here with us anymore or the, you know, the other thing that we’ve lost. This is something that’s bigger than the loss. It could be where we see a renewed purpose in our life, where we can continue to honor have an adapted relationship with the person we love. The person we love may not be right here with us anymore, but they can be with us in our life in different ways. We might find ways to honor our loved one, ways to remember their impact on us in the world and keep the light of their life integrated into our new life. This is quite a higher level of grief, isn’t it? Everyone has their own journey in making meaning of the life and the loss of our loved ones. And even in making meaning of the loss of a dream or a hope that we’ve had and it is unique and there’s no particular or predictable timeline. This is the frustrating and the beautiful thing about grief.
So back to our questions, what does grief look like when it is resolved? So The word resolved grief resolution, that’s a technical term. And it’s a little bit deceiving like we’re seeking to resolve grief to have it be finished. And grief hasn’t been a when and done kind of thing for me. I don’t know how how do you ever say that you’ve you’ve actually graduated through it and that it’s over I I think that the largest tasks, the biggest, most painful tasks, are things that do have a cycle and they do complete. But I’ve had an opportunity to work through grief. If you wanna do the math, that means for like the past thirty plus years, I’ve been unwinding grief. And in some way, I think I’ve definitely resolved the major tasks of grieving very long ago.
But the effects of the loss in my life I really do anticipate will be felt until the end of my days. And this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Only because there’s so many elements of my grief that have elevated the way I love and live. It’s influenced the level of compassion I feel. It’s allowed me the option to continue to love and to continue to miss those I’ve lost. In essence, there’s been growth and I would even say gratitude through this process and that part of grief is the part that stays with me. It kind of helps me stay soft hearted for others going through hard things because I’ve been through my own hard things. And this is that circle of kinship we have in our lives with each other.
So I think resolved grief means that you’ve got an ability to not be completely floored by those feelings permanently. That you’ve got some experience in having processed them and that ultimately you’ve made peace with a new relationship in your mind and in your spiritual walk or in your life experience. And I think we need to remember that grief is a wandering road. It’s not a straight path to resolution. And this might be the hardest thing to allow. Most of us want to get out of pain as fast as we can, so we try to get from a to b as quickly as possible. And I think the danger in that is that we don’t give time for the honoring and the meaning and the adjustment to occur. And that can kind of delay our grief and create a longer process. And we sometimes call this longer process complicated grief.
Where the grief process extends for a long time and starts to trickle into people’s life in a way that can be really disruptive and maybe even turn into something deeper like a clinical depression or a deep anxiety or an isolation from others. But it’s kind of a tricky thing because there isn’t a hard and fast timeline. And I I don’t even know if we should have a timeline at all. And this is a key for knowing how to help anyone going through grief. Is recognizing that they are going to have a need their own timeline. So when we talk about having that distinction, between grief and complicated grief.
I’m always really careful to not overlay an expectation of when someone should be done with their grieving process. It’s just kind of disrespectful and not fair. There’s this dance between deep honoring and staying connected to life. And that’s part of the grief process that helps us be resilient. And Air quote, resolve the grief process. So basically, I think we need to be looking at, you know, how can we keep reaching for the surface as I’m getting rolled around here on the bottom of the ocean floor. Like, how can I keep looking for the light and keep reaching for the air at the surface? How can we watch out for those we love? And help them reach up and reach for that light even in the midst of how hard it is. This is the essence of resilience at its deepest. When we’re at our saddest, it’s trusting that we will rise again and life can hold us. And I do think it’s important we need to hold on to each other. We can be there to lighten the loads for those who are grieving and offer them support. You know, like they might need to step out of their life for a little bit and have things quiet and protected. They also might want to get right back to some normalcy and do things. That they normally would do before the loss occurred. I think we can start to if if we just give ourselves permission for it to be whatever it needs to be, we can start to see. We’ll we’ll have clues in the people we love and even in ourselves, so what we need to do in any given moment. And gradually, we’ll start to see people returning to some routines and finding their way back to life.
Here’s the next part of that question. How do you know when you need outside help? I think you know when over a critical amount of time someone or you just feel stuck. And this is why we’ve spent so much time talking about the length of this process, that it’s hard to predict and that it’s unique, and that there just isn’t a timeline, like after two weeks, you should be XYZ. But if you’re finding someone or yourself, you’re feeling a little bit stuck. Like things don’t seem to be bobbing up and down, but they’re staying down all the time. They’re not returning to at least a few normal activities after a couple of weeks or months because they feel so overwhelmed or so saddened or their energy is so low.
That might be a good time when you look at bringing in a partner who can help them walk through and talk through that grief. And of course, I’m a therapist, so I’m gonna say this, but I don’t think there’s any signal that something’s terribly wrong or deficient if we need to get some extra support and sometimes seeing it there piston. Talking to somebody that you don’t have to take care of that you’re not worried about, but, you know, having that third party person can really be helpful. And I see that as a sign of strength, you know, not a sign of weakness. And I need it too. All of us need that extra support sometimes. Okay.
Final question. How to help kids through grief? Well, for our kids, this is something we’re all trying to protect our kids from. Right? This pain We don’t want them to feel it. We don’t want them to feel loss. As a matter of fact, probably most everything we do is to protect them from this kind of experience, this heavy feeling. So when we have someone in our lives that has died and our children are affected by this, you know, and it could be death, it could be a divorce. There could be other things that are children, you know, loss of health.
I think the first thing we need to remember is how hard it is on us as moms, because we experience things for ourselves, but when we’re parents, we also end up kind of vicariously experiencing things for our children. And this is just a hallmark of this incredible kind of relationship and love that we have and bonding that we have as a parent. But it can be very painful to feel your own loss and the loss of your child’s. And so I think as we move into this, the first thing we need to be aware of is you know, open up that self awareness and connect to your inner world and recognize your own vulnerability around this. And like any leader, you’re going to need to take care of yourself so that you can be there for those you lead, and that would be your kiddos. So your awareness and your feelings knowing what you need and how you can get support to process it. That’ll all be very important. Because you’re gonna be offering that to your child.
And it’s very normal to see children go through a brief process in a child’s way. Which may not look exactly like an adult’s way. They may have very different experience of the loss. They may feel uncomfortable being sad and want to go back into their normal activities very quickly. And so it’s important that we check-in with them and give them options. They may want to go back, like, back to school right away, and they may feel the most comfort in that normalcy. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel deeply or that it’s not hard for them.
So what we’re talking about is giving your child permission to be where they are and to just ask them, directly, how are you feeling? What kinds of things are going through your mind? Is there anything you’re thinking about or worry anything worrying you? I want you to think about the element of control. Human beings really love control. We need it. It makes us feel safe. And I actually even define trauma as the loss of control. So, you know, this happens a lot when we have a big loss, something that we’re grieving. It’s just not what we chose. And the element of choice in anything at any point is protective. I really want you to remember that as you’re looking at feeling better and feeling calmer and helping people you love. You’re you’re always wanna look for places where we can increase choice, even if it’s tiny choices.
So if you have a child who’s dealing with the loss of someone they love and care about, it’s a a great time to ask them, what feels good to them? Like, what would they like to do? And this might be a little counterintuitive because as parents, we lead our kids and we kind of are supposed to teach them what the right thing is to do. Like grandma passed away or uncle John or a friend and you know, we really want our child to go through the experience of attending the funeral or being part of the program or, you know, maybe going to the viewing. And it’s a lot of pressure for all of us, even adults, but we understand the meaning of it. For us and the power of it. And we want that for our kids. And we know ultimately those are the kinds of things that will probably help them in their grief process. I mean, and that’s why we have funerals and that’s why we have viewings. It gives us a little control over something that we don’t have of control over. And we get to honor and make symbolic gestures out of something that feels very out of control. So we want that for our kids.
But I also think we need to be super respectful of their need to choose. And especially if it’s something that we really do feel they need to attend. We can still give them very many choices about how they go about that. You know, what they wear or where they sit. Or when they go or when they leave or what they do. And definitely, we wanna make sure that we’re not laying any guilt on them about how they should be feeling or or maybe even how bad they might feel if they decide not to attend a funeral or not go to. Something that we think is important. So I think we need to honor what they’re thinking about and talk it through and figure it out with them.
And, you know, Little kids have a big kind of a hard time with that big decision. We can make it easier for them. We can accommodate them. And anytime you can take the abstract and make it concrete for a child, I think we’re gonna do them a favor. We’re gonna help them deal with it in a kind of a more concrete way. So having a safe item that they can take with them to a funeral or even keep with them when they’re feeling sad, something that gives them comfort something they can hold on to. It’s always a great idea. And the same if they’re comforting someone like a friend that they know They that might be a gesture. They can give that friend something special, a special item, a toy, a stuffed animal, or even a note with some words of love. And support on it.
A child dealing with grief might display changes in behavior where there’s more energy maybe like like they might look a little hyper or more behavioral changes, maybe acting out a little bit. I don’t know that I love that phrase, but, you know, not not acting in a normal way because kids will act out, their emotions, without being able to always identify what those emotions are or how to talk about them. So it’s helpful to have a little filter on when we’re looking at our kid’s behavior around grief. And of course, you know, they could be doing exactly the opposite and being more withdrawn and quiet. But you you will see changes or or regression in their developmental skills as a sign sometimes when they’re having a hard time. Not all kids will do this, but Often, you’ll see sleep changes. Kids may have a hard time falling asleep or may not want to sleep by themselves anymore, or regression in their potty training if they’re young. Having wet beds or accidents.
These aren’t things to be highly worried about in the early days of grief. It’s just one of the things you can say to kids is, you know, it’s okay. Sweetie, don’t worry about this. This is just such a hard time or we have a lot of big feelings happening. I’m here. We wanna use that kind of reassuring and supportive language with our kids. We also want to use very clear language and be ready to answer questions that they may have.
This can be hard sometimes you know, they may be worried about things. You can ask them, is there anything you’re worried about? And and the hard part is that, you know, you’re dealing with your own feelings of loss. And sometimes having those conversations. It just feels so so heavy and hard, but it’s okay to tell them that you’re sad and that you’re having a hard time too. It’s always good to let them know that you’re going to be okay and that you have people who are helping you. And of course, that’s really important. I mean, kind of a side note, that’s important for us to have people that are helping us so that we can support our kids. Kids know that we’re struggling. And we want them to know that you have other grown ups that are helping you so they don’t have to try to do it. And you can let them help you a little. Let them comfort you sometimes. Just be aware of the heavy load your grief may be upon them. And then make sure you’re reaching out to others who are adults to help get your extra support. And you can even say, I’m the luckiest that I have, Ant. Sue and our friends who are helping mommy and helping helping us as a family. I’m so lucky to have you too we we are gonna get through this and we’re gonna get through it together.
A great way to support your child is through what I call the three t’s time, talk, and touch. And we’ll probably talk about this more in the future, but briefly, you wanna cover the needs your child may be having with a broad net. You just increase the amount of one on one time you have with them, and you create opportunities to talk with them and listen. Even if the talk isn’t about the grief, it’s itself. It’s just opportunities for them to talk about their day and how they’re feeling, and that there’s some touch that is increasing there. You know, touches the language of little children who are who are pre verbal and it never really leaves us. As being an important thing that connects and soothes us, especially to our nervous system. So pulling a child up onto your lap or giving them lots of snuggles. Holding hands and scratching their back or just sitting really close to them on the couch. All of these things can help regulate their nervous systems and help them have another layer of comfort, especially is not one that you have to talk through. Right, where they have to use their words. And this can get a little trickier as our kids get older.
One thing we used to do in the in the in the in the in the in the in the inpatient hospital where I start about working years ago is we’d bring parents in to rock their teenagers in a rocking chair on the unit. When we first started doing that, I would think there’s no way this sixteen year old boy is gonna let his mother rock him in a rock and chair. And I’m not suggesting you go home and try to rock your sixteen year old in a rock and chair, but these young people were very depressed and very angry sometimes inside, and they actually just melted when they got into their mother’s arms. And their father’s arms in that rocking chair. It was just an assignment, like a therapy assignment, and they did it begrudgingly. But when the circa stances were right and it fit that family. It was a very healing thing.
So the way we do it with our teenagers is by spending time with them in the way that they connect most. Like, talking with them where they we mostly get to listen and we increase the touch even if it means just sitting next to them. On the sofa or seeing maybe they’ll let you scratch their back for a few minutes. At the very least, just brush shoulders with them as they’re walking past in the hallway. Know teenagers need all this stuff, but they’re in their normal developmental stage where they’re kind of separating from their parents and it’s a tricky dance of getting enough of all that closeness while they’re trying to remain independent and move into this adult stage. So giving kids time, talk, and touch while their processing grief can just be looking for tiny places we can jump in and support them. Okay. Let’s talk about one more thing that helps us get through grief and that is caring for ourselves physically.
One of the biggest grief responses is the way the body will kind of not desire food or water when we’re in grief or I guess it could flip the other way too and crave food as comfort. And I think just recognizing that our body is struggling to catch up in comforting and getting through this hard thing. So I’m not so worried about eating for comfort. I’m I’m really more I have my eyes peeled for the other way where we don’t feel like eating anything at all because that’s so understandable, but The tricky thing is that it can really make it hard for our body to feel calm and okay when we It’s been a long time since we’ve eaten something. So the ask I have for all the people I’m working with when they’re feeling this way is just to notice an an have a bare minimum of something that they eat so they can kind of stay on their feet and and think as clearly as they can. So, you know, not perfect nutrition. Just just see if you can nibble on a little something. Drink a smoothie or have a little piece of bread or crackers or fruit, something that you can put on your stomach that’ll give you some energy.
We’re trying to honor the body that’s grieving, and bodies literally do grieve. We want to honor that with tenderness and patience and take care of that body. So, you know, no shaming like you gotta eat or you’re gonna fall over no threats, just consistent, gentle invitations to take a little sip, to nibble a little something. And over time, your body will know what to do to get into a rhythm again. This isn’t something that you need to worry too much about. With your kids if they’re having a change in their appetite. It goes back to what we’re saying, how you’re gonna see some shifts, especially for them when they’re not able to talk about what they feel. But over time that should ease up a little bit and get back into a little bit of a rhythm.
We were built to be resilient, to find a new way of living after something hard happens and ultimately as human beings. That resiliency is gonna help us rise again and get to the surface even when we felt like we’ve been rolling around down at the bottom of that wave. You can trust that. And we can trust that when we’re watching, our kids go through these hard times. They also have that resilience built within them.
So in summary, Grief is something to be shared, not endured alone. If we are the ones who are grieving, let others help. Let them know what it is that you need and be as open as possible with how you’re feeling even when those feelings shift and change. And if you are a person witnessing and supporting someone who’s going through grief, be with them. Allow them to feel what they feel and have the time they need to feel it. Don’t be afraid to hear what they have to say. You know, our goal is not to make anything better. It’s just simply to stand beside and be with them.
Okay. This has been long. I hope that’s okay. Probably longer than most question and answers. I don’t know. We’ll see. But I think I’m glad we took the time to answer these specific deep and tender set of questions around grief. I want you to know that I believe in your wisdom and you’re knowing how it is for you, and you’re knowing how it is for your kids. And I support you in following that with them in in giving yourself the time that you and they need. For all of you that are grieving, for all of us that have ever grieved, I think it’s so important that we know we’re not alone. We can love each other through these things and stand by and support and hold on to each other as we face all the ups and downs that this life brings to us.
Thank you for spending time with me today. I invite you to send me your questions, and I’m hoping to have question and answer discussion about once a month. And of course, all of them will be completely confidential. And anonymous. So don’t put them in the comments. Make sure that you DM me at Instagram at Leigh Germann. Or you can go to my website LeighGermann.com and in my show notes, there will be my email address. And I will do my very best to get back to you with either some answers in a podcast format or maybe we might even find a guest that will be able to address something if we have enough interest in a topic. I really want to bring you the topics to help you lead yourself and then to lead your family. So once again, thank you for our time today, and until next week, take care.
The Leadership parenting podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health profession. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness, or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical, or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care.