"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."
This is a blog about widows,
mothers and daughters,
facing change and challenges
and receiving ordinary, everyday blessings that don't seem quite so ordinary anymore.
It chronicles the journey from grief into the restoration of what has been lost.
*** I am no longer actively posting to this site, so please come visit me at my new site ***
http://www.jrrmblog.com/ - "Starting Over ... Again"
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Last year my youngest daughter had a hard time in school. Her first year following her father's death was difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as the year that was to follow. That second year she "hit a wall" in many ways, and the biggest obstacle was her grief. What made it so hard on my daughter was her teacher's inability to understand my daughter's grief, and to recognize it for what it was.
I feel strongly that teachers need to be better educated about grief in children; how to recognize it, and how to help the child deal with those feelings.
Here is a great PDF for teachers about that very thing.
It's from the New York Life Foundation website, and that site is packed with lots of resources for teachers and parents.
Brookes Publishing has a link on that site to a book called "The Grieving Student - A Teacher's Guide." I am considering buying a copy (or two) for the teachers at my daughter's school.
It's not difficult for teacher's to learn more about grief in children, and the signs and symptoms exhibited by grieving children. I know that most of our teachers put in a great deal of time and effort to be equipped to help our kids. I am not trying to add to their pile of work.
But a little time to become educated about grief in children, its signs and symptoms, and how to assist a child through this most difficult of times is time well spent. Children need a strong support system, and the more caring adults they have to turn to - the better. :)
Thursday, September 26, 2013
My youngest daughter had a rough time last year in school. It was a combination of several things, but the underlying reason was that she was still dealing with grief ... even though it was hard to tell that from how she looked or acted.
Her teacher said she always seemed happy enough to be at school, so she had a hard time accepting the fact that my daughter was actually suffering from some depression during the year. The teacher's request - have her tested for ADHD. Why do so many teachers just naturally go THERE?!?! Sure, my daughter was having trouble focusing at times in school, but her physician and two therapists both confirmed that this was NOT a child who was ADHD. It was grief. But the school and the school's Special Ed "specialist" didn't really buy into that. So last year was a little discouraging and stressful for both of us.
This year? Things seem to be on a totally different track. She's in 5th grade, with a more experienced teacher, who is disciplined yet makes it fun to learn. The change in my daughter has been great! I am sure her teacher is not the ONLY reason for the change; I know that my daughter has worked through much of her grief issues, and seeing a therapist a couple times a month has helped a great deal. But it's been great to see her begin to blossom again, and be encouraged about school again - instead of being beaten down each day, and come home with her shoulders slumped and a discouraged look on her face.
I guess my point in writing this post is this: kids you are grieving have different needs in the classroom, and teachers need to be able to understand the grieving process in kids and facilitate their learning during this time. It's not uncommon for kids who are grieving to be distracted; anyone who has grieved can tell you that it's hard work! It takes a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy to cope with grieving the loss of a loved one AND to function as a normal person on a day to day basis. Add into that the stress of a classroom filled with kids and teachers who don't "get" what you're going through - and no wonder grieving kids seem "spacey" and "out of it" at times.
And the worst part was being told that, "It's been a year. She should be over it by now."
Grief is not experienced on a timetable. There is no fixed time limit for grief - we all grieve differently, and at our own pace.
If you are the parent of a grieving child, you may be called upon to be their advocate when it comes to the school system. Many schools are very helpful (and most try to be helpful) but you may need to educate a few teachers and administrators (and yes, even the occasional special education specialist) about how a child grieves, what is normal, etc.
Stand up for your child, and make sure that they aren't being unfairly labeled. Make sure that their needs are being met in the classroom. Don't be afraid to speak up!
And let me assure you - it does get better!
Oh, and just a side note: neither last year's teacher nor the Special Ed "specialist" are employed at my daughter's school this year. Both have moved on to other schools. I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS! But I know God did ... I have prayed that anyone who did not have my child's best interests in mind would be removed from her life. So ... prayer works, and now my daughter doesn't have to deal with either one of them this year. :)
(9/30/2013 - this post has been shared with :
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The Real Full House
Thursday, August 16, 2012
As much as we would like to shield our kids from death, they will be exposed to it. In many ways, they are exposed a little every day.
"Children are Aware - Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of life, and children, at some level, are aware of it.
If we permit children to talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing interest in and respect for what they have to say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and comfortable with our own feelings - often easier said than done. "
When talking with children, many of us feel uncomfortable if we don’t have all the answers. Young children, in particular, seem to expect parents to be all knowing - even about death. But death, the one certainty in all life, is life’s greatest uncertainty. Coming to terms with death can be a lifelong process. We may find different answers at different stages of our lives, or we may always feel a sense of uncertainty and fear. If we have unresolved fears and questions, we may wonder how to provide comforting answers for our children.
While not all our answers may be comforting, we can share what we truly believe. Where we have doubts, an honest, “I just don’t know the answer to that one,” may be more comforting than an explanation which we don’t quite believe. Children usually sense our doubts. White lies, no matter how well intended, can create uneasiness and distrust. Besides, sooner, or later, our children will learn that we are not all knowing, and maybe we can make that discovery easier for them if we calmly and matter-of-fact tell them we don’t have all the answers. Our non-defensive and accepting attitude may help them feel better about not knowing everything also.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Here's a book that might be helpful for those who are answering questions and trying to explain death to a young child:
Here are some typical questions that may be asked by the child when a parent has died:
Is death like sleeping?
Death is different from sleeping. When you go to sleep your body still works. You still breathe and your heart beats and you dream. When a person is dead, his or her body doesn't work anymore. Remember that children who are told that death is like sleeping may develop fears about falling asleep.
Why did they die?
If the death was from an illness, explain that the person's body couldn't fight the sickness any more. It stopped working. Make sure your children know that if they get the flu or a cold, or if mom or dad get sick, their bodies can fight the illness and get better. Their bodies still work. Explain that people do not usually die when they get sick. Most people get better. If the death was from an accident, explain that the person was hurt so badly that his or her body stopping working. Explain that when most people get hurt they can get better and live a long, long time.
Will you die? Will I die?
Children are looking for reassurance. Let your child know that most people live for a very long time. Children also need to know who will take care of them if a parent or guardian dies. Let them know who to go to for help if there is a family emergency.
Did I do or think something bad to cause the death?
Maybe your child had a fight with the person who died. Maybe your child wished this person wasn't around to get so much attention from other family members. Maybe your child said, "I wish you'd go away from me," or even "I wish you were dead." Reassure your children that saying and wishing things do not cause a death to happen.
Will they come back?
"Forever" is a hard concept for young children to understand. They see that people go away and come back. Cartoon characters die and then jump up again. Young children may need to be told several times that the person won't be back ever.
Is she cold? What will he eat?
Young children may think the dead body still has feelings and walks and talks under the ground. Some children might imagine a cemetery as a sort of "underground apartment complex." You may need to explain that the body doesn't work anymore. It can't breathe, walk, talk or eat anymore.
Why did God let this happen?
Answer questions related to God and your faith according to your own beliefs. You may also want the counsel of your clergy. It's okay to not have answers for everything. Children can accept that you, too, have a hard time understanding some things. It is best to avoid suggesting God "took" someone to be with him, or that "only the good die young". Some children may fear that God will take them away too. They may try to be "bad" so that they won't die, also.
Returning to School
Going back to school following a death can be difficult. You can make this easier by helping your children with possible answers to questions and remarks. Schoolmates may not always be sensitive to your children's feelings. Tell the child that, if they don't want to, they don't have to answer questions. Explain that others may be uncomfortable talking about the person who died. Your home can be a place where you and your child can talk about and remember the loved one. You may want to talk with the school principal, your child's teacher, the school social worker, or counselor, to plan for a surviving child's return to school. You may also want to discuss what information you would like shared with his/her classmates.
Taken from How Can I Help Young Surviving Children
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Reaching Out to the Hurting
There she is, the newly widowed mom. Your heart hurts for her, but you don’t approach her. You just don’t know what to say. She looks your way and you pretend not to see her. You see intense grief in her eyes and you look away. You feel guilty and squeeze your husband’s hand. Seeing her awakens a fear that you have tried to keep buried—fear that something similar could happen to your family. It is natural for us to feel these emotions and pull away. It is difficult to know what to do and what to say to someone whose spouse has died. I have been on both sides of the situation and I implore you to let God expand your comfort zone and reach out.
Each individual’s grief is unique, yet every widow and widower is struggling to figure out how to function as half of a couple. One of the many intense emotions is feeling alone. Widows and widowers don’t want to be pitied. Instead they long for friends that are willing to encourage them on their journey.
Don’t avoid the widow or widower.
It communicates that no one cares. No matter the reason, we feel forgotten and abandoned.
Please pray and let the widow or widower know that you are praying.
Many, many times the prayers of my friends, as well as other Christians I have never met, have carried the girls and me through intensely emotional times. Knowing others were praying gave me the strength to keep breathing and continue putting one foot in front of the other.
Please reach out.
Many people often think family and friends have been reaching out to the grieving family, but fewer people are reaching out than you think, especially after the first three months as well as after the holidays are over. Don’t expect widows and widowers to seek you out. Grieving itself is intensely draining. We are also juggling work, helping children with their grief, legal and financial issues, and many other situations that we must face without our spouse. We have already felt family and friends pull away and we don’t risk being hurt again. You need to be the one to approach the widow or widower. What do you say? “We’ve been praying for you and the kids and I was wondering how you are really doing?” Then really listen. Or “I don’t know how you feel or what to say. But if it’s alright I’ll just sit here and let you know I care.”
Don’t be afraid you’ll make us cry.
Our tears don’t mean that you have hurt us. Our grief is our constant companion. Tears just mean our spouse was very special to us, and we miss them immensely. Let us feel it is okay to cry. Offer us a tissue, squeeze our hand, or put your hand on our shoulder. Better yet, weep with us.
Please speak our spouse’s name.
There is a special comfort to the girls and me when someone speaks Robby’s name, especially when they share a good memory or what they miss about him. Hearing my spouse’s name on the lips of others is like warm sunshine on a cold cloudy day; it’s soothing to the soul.
Don’t say “Call if you need anything.”
Often we don’t know exactly what we need and even if we do, it is very difficult to ask. Instead offer specific help. “I made a double batch of lasagna; I’ll bring it over around five.” and then include the recipe. “Could my son come mow your lawn or shovel your driveway?” “We are on the way to the park. Could your kids come with us? You could come along or enjoy some quiet time at home which ever you prefer.” “Could my husband and I come over and see how we could help you get the house ready for winter?” Sit by us during the choir concert or soccer practice, or at church. It is comforting to not sit alone.
Please keep your word.
Not keeping your word implies the same thing as avoiding us. Children are keenly aware of those who show they care, and those who don’t. Their whole world has turned upside down when a parent dies. Their security is shattered. Their trust is shaken. Their emotions are as tangled up as a ball of yarn. Show them they can count on you.
Don’t give advice unless asked.
Trust me, unsolicited advice is always in abundance for widows and widowers. Everyone else seems to know what to do about things we are unsure about. Our whole world has been turned upside down. We have had something happen that we did not have control over and are trying to listen to how God wants us to handle things. The more unwanted advise, the harder it is to discern God in it all.
Don’t judge our children.
As I said before, their emotions are a tangled mess. Sometimes their grief comes out as sadness, but often it is masked in anger, rudeness, depression, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. Events you may consider normal in your everyday lives could be a grief trigger for our children. Again, don’t pity them. Be kinder than necessary yet lovingly firm.
Please share your spouse.
Let me clarify this. Don’t jump to conclusions or assumptions when a widow or widower talks to your spouse. We are used to hearing a different gender’s perspective on various issues. Letting us talk with your spouse in an appropriate setting is very helpful. I am very grateful to the ladies who have let me talk with their husband’s about lawyers and legal matters as well as landscaping and cars without jumping to the conclusion that I was a desperate woman trying to steal their husbands.
Special days like our wedding anniversary, anniversary of the death, birthdays (the missing spouse’s too) Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and holidays are especially difficult. A call, a small gift, a card, or email around these times is very meaningful. Before I was widowed, I thought after a year things were better. I now know that grief has no timetable. Like many widows and widowers, my first year was about survival, making it through all the “firsts” without my husband. The next year will be one of harsh realities that my husband will never be here again. I still have days when grief waves overwhelm me and my mind gets blanketed by fog.
Please continue being there.
We need to talk and share. We need friends who will listen without judgment and refresh us with their prayers and encouragement. We need friends who rally us to press on when we want to throw in the towel.
Friday, July 6, 2012
It's tough being the only parent. I am the most important adult in my daughters' lives right now, and that can feel overwhelming at times. There is no one to "back me up" when it's time for discipline, and no one to share the joys and small victories with either. It is very lonely being a widow. Sure, during the day there is lots of hustle and activity. Lots to be done and distractions are easy to come by. But when the house gets quiet and dark - that's a different story. My tears tend to catch up with me in the shower, when I am getting ready for bed each night.
It's important for my daughters (and for me) to have other adults in their lives to help and support them over this difficult time. And let's not kid ourselves - "this difficult time" is going to be around for awhile. Every time there is a new milestone reached, there will also be a look backward, wishing that Dad was here to be a part of it. We carry that loss forward with us from now on.
But having their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins close at hand helps to let them know they are not alone, and there are others looking out for them as well. One of Rachel's biggest fears has been that something would happen to me - that she would lose BOTH her parents. Making sure she knows that there are family members that love her and would take care of her, should something happen to me, has helped a little to allay her fears.
We are blessed to have my brother, my sister and her husband, my parents, and close family friends whom we consider family all nearby. The guys are on call whenever I need help with the lawnmower, or a garden tilled, or advice on how to pressure wash the house or start the Traeger grill. And there are cousins nearby for the girls to hang out with, and enjoy some time away from Mom and her harping at them. :)
You can't pick your family - God does that for you. I think He did a pretty good job in my case - I feel very blessed!