Child loss is also often sibling loss.
In addition to their own heartache, bereaved parents carry the heartache of their surviving children.
The family everyone once knew is now a family no one recognizes. Hurting hearts huddle together-or run and hide-and it is so, so hard to find a way to talk about that pain.
There is definitely a time and place for professional counseling. Many, many families benefit from having a trained individual, outside the immediate grief circle, guide them in exploring feelings, developing coping strategies and learning to live life this side of loss.
But there is also something to be said for arranging casual open-ended activities with surviving siblings, parents and even grandparents where space and a more relaxed atmosphere often leads to honest sharing.
This graphic has lots of excellent suggestions for how to craft such a space.
Not all will be suitable for every family, but every family should be able to find a few that fit.
I’ll add these guidelines that may help your family make the best choice for YOU:
- Don’t force it. If you make an offer of an activity and it drops with a thud to the ground, let it go. You might be able to do it another time.
- Don’t make it (what my kids like to say!) a “mandatory option”. There must be no guilt or coercion invading this space. If one or more of your family members consistently refuse to join in, consider asking a close family friend to take that individual out alone and see what might be going on.
- If you choose a movie or other story-themed activity, LOOK UP THE PLOT! I can’t tell you how many times we were sideswiped by a death scene or some other heavy emotional plot twist. There may be a time when your family is prepared to experience those things together (we can now) but it may not be yet.
- Mix and match more structured activities with open-ended ones like walks outside, watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, hanging at the pool, playing a game (not too competitive-that will sometimes bring out hidden anger).
- If you have a family with a broad range of ages you might have to do some things with the littles and some with the older kids. You can always add one or two activities a month or quarter where everyone (or as many as are available) gets together.
- If your children, spouse, parent or other close griever begins to talk-let them. If tears flow-that’s progress! If ugly feelings are expressed, listen. Try not to be defensive. Try to hear the hurt behind the words. It’s OK to set ground rules like using “I” statements and not blaming. But don’t shut them out or shut them down.
These are just ideas.
Google is your friend and your phone is probably already in your hand or pocket-use it.
Find things that fit YOUR family.
The only way through is through.
You have to feel and deal to heal. ❤