Everlasting Grief

Losing a loved one may start any type of reaction within you. Many things factor into how pronounced you feel the loss. One of the most important factors is how much residual grief you have left from having lost loved ones in the past. If you are not adept at processing grief, much of it may remain even after many years. Then, when you suffer another loss, the residual grief swells up and is exponentially more severe.

Losses in childhood may be very painful, even now. That is where the struggle begins. Many times you suffer loss in childhood and no one processes this event with you. Either the people in your life didn’t realize that you needed special attention or they did not know how to process grief themselves and were unable to help you.

Then you were involved in the ritual of death to some degree. You were at the wake, funeral and burial or you were sheltered from all of it and people were absent from your life without sufficient explanation. This level of involvement impacted how you process grief from that point forward.

Oddly enough your parents more thoroughly explained Christmas and the fictitious Santa Claus then they did of loved ones dying. This could apply to any religion or cultural event that your family practices. This is just an example. Your family may be more comfortable with certain holidays or family events but not at all comfortable with people dying. Very often, children are left to process this significant event alone or with limited information. Even more tragic is when a child is assisted with death and dying by another uninformed child.

The problem with someone dying is that it is an abstract idea. Children are not able to process abstract information early in life. They don’t understand the concept of someone dying. Someone lying in a casket or in an urn is also very abstract. Well, where did grandma go? What happened to her? What does “dead” mean?

The most success with processing grief is when you are presented with very real, factual information in childhood to the extent of your understanding. This requires a thoughtful, considerate adult who is willing to take time with any child while presented with death. This is not just one contact. The child requires input throughout the death/dying ritual. It would also be necessary for someone to touch base with the child at a few different intervals after. This will dispel any misconceptions or gossip that the child may have been presented with.

Most of us didn’t have the benefit of this kind of attention. Parents who suffer from addictions have less patience for helping children and there may be a spike in the substance abuse. Depressed parents or elders will also be unable to satisfactorily walk a child through death. It is also possible that parents or adults are not fully aware of accurate information either. Then, there are adults who are crippled by the loss of this person and are unable to guide anyone through this process. They are overwhelmed and the suffering of others is not a concept they are able to comprehend.

You may remember people responding to the death of a loved one by shutting down. For whatever reason, they do not cope and much of their responsibilities go undone. They disengage with day-to-day life. Anyone in their household would lack much of the attention, care and interaction that they have come to expect or would be appropriate. This leaves them struggling to understand the loss and also the reaction of their loved one.

In every instance, the parent, elder or close loved ones are role models for youth. These adults may not realize how important it is to process grief and regain an emotionally healthy functioning after a period of time. Children will model after any behavior they witness whether intentionally or without consideration.

Why did we go this far back to explain grief? Because this is where the layers begin.

What would be the one most important factor in how you embrace and cope with the death of a loved one? What you believe about the afterlife.


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