Thursday, March 24, 2005

Children and Death

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my good friends' moms committed suicide. This came as a big shock to my small bedroom community. I remember my mom sitting me down and explaining to me what had happened. I got a very vivid image in my mind of my friend's mom hanging by her neck from a rope in her garage. My feelings about the image were less clear. The story seemed surreal and beyond my scope of understanding. I felt bad for my friend, but my sympathy quickly wore thin. Was this due to my naive age or due to a general impatience with grief in our society that I had already learned by the tender age of ten?

Even at nine, when my maternal grandmother died, my understanding of grief was limited, I most clearly recall the fear of seeing my mother sob uncontrollably.

Children's understanding of death changes with each developmental stage. Some suggest that children must go through the grief of their earlier losses at each stage as their understanding of death and loss grows. I believe it.

My paternal grandmother's recent death has brought up some old griefs - most acutely, the loss of my maternal grandmother when I was nine. It's also brought up lots of anticipatory grief. I have relied heavily on my mother for support during this most recent loss and wonder grief-stricken how I'd survive my mother's death without her there to support me through it. I know I have other avenues of support - you, my dear readers, have shown a beautiful example of that through the numerous touching comments and emails I've received almost every day. I hold onto those reassurances each time the anticipatory grief washes over me.

I think I am most impatient of all for these feelings of grief to end. I have decided to join a grief support group. I haven't found one yet. S pointed out that it may be both beneficially for me personally and also beneficial to my work with families whose loved ones are dying. I think that makes it easier for me to reach out for help. It's easier knowing my reaching out for help will improve my ability to help others.

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