I’m sure I’m not the only one glad to see the back of 2020. It has undoubtedly been an incredibly difficult year for everyone, everywhere. When we look around, so many people have experienced loss and have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. Disruptions to routine, loss of loved ones, missed holidays, economic crisis and difficult decisions are common topics of conversation these days. It hasn’t only been an adult catastrophe; it has affected our children too. How do we as parents and grandparents help our children process the losses, experiences and emotions of 2020?
David Kessler, a death and grieving expert says, “Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn’t mean needing someone to try and lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.” (From the Unlocking us podcast with Brene Brown)
As parents we can appreciate the uniqueness of how each of our children function. So what David Kessler implies about our grief being unique may very well ring true. Added to this is that children express their loss differently according to their age. They can also appear to jump in and out of feeling sad. Despite this, we should recognise that grief is still there and it needs our attention.
So, what could we do?
As this year draws to a close a perfect opportunity presents itself for reflection. If David Kessler suggests we should witness each other’s grief, then perhaps we could do this together as families as this year comes to a close and we look towards 2021.
Perhaps it could be something like a cosy evening together, taking turns to share about the things we have missed out on this year. Naming the holiday that was cancelled, the school activities or hobbies that couldn’t be attended, the isolation and change of routine for an extended time could be common to many of us. Perhaps some deeper things could be explored like the death of a family member or the loss of income and the resulting changes that were necessary.
Just saying these things out loud and describing the emotions attached to them in a setting that is safe and non-judgemental will be a great way to reflect and process together. This may be new and a little uncomfortable for some of us. In the same vein as The Mending Chronicles ‘work it through pages’, I created a printable PDF to guide and help things along.
If you’re tempted to offer the ‘silver lining’ David Kessler talks about, and it’s admittedly hard not to, try and say things like:
- “That was a hard moment for you.”
- “I could see how sad you were.”
- “I was sad that happened too.”
- “I’m sorry it turned out like that.”
To wrap things up, you could do something to reinforce the feeling that you are there for each other. Giving hugs and praising your kids are great ways to communicate this. Saying how proud you are of them and how brave they have been are good examples too. Reminding them that whatever 2021 holds, you’ll face it together, is another positive note to end on.
Be gentle with each other after your discussion. Disclosing these thoughts and emotions can make one feel tender. Showing a little kindness will be worth it for everyone.