I felt a duty to write this article after attending the funeral of the six week old child of one of my friends, #Heartbreaking. It’s incredibly difficult and very soul-searching to mourn one so young. I felt a need to put together some helpful strategies that, although will not ease the pain (can anything ease that type of pain?), will make coping slightly easier. If your “Family Team” is experiencing anything very difficult like this please remind yourselves that you are strong (stronger than you may feel you are) and you will find a way to cope; this is what I want this blog to provide.
I have to be honest and say that I initially had no clue about what on Earth I could say; I just knew I had to write something. The brain is a very amazing organ and throughout the funeral and the days following certain things started to come to me without having looked anything up. The first thing that I started to think was that it’s not just the pain of losing a child, however old they are, it could also be the pain of losing a mother/wife, or father/husband. Young children really struggle with the loss of a parent because they’re at a stage where they really need their parents. Plus, for the parent who is left to cope on their own this can be very difficult, particularly if parenting is something you don’t feel naturally adept too; this may be the case if you are the main bread-winner.
The first thing I thought of when thinking about what I would write in this blog was a story I learnt in a “Buddhism lecture” where a woman was distressed about the death of her baby so she speaks to a “wise old man” and asks his advice. He tells her to bring him one grain of rice from every family who has never lost anyone. Well of course she doesn’t bring him back any grains of rice because everyone has lost someone. She also realises on her journey that talking about her feelings and sharing in grief with others, listening to what they have to say and how they coped had enable her to deal with her own loss more effectively. I want this article to be for everyone of every culture so I felt it necessary to include this story.
There were two coping strategy ideas I came up with. The first was to create a shrine in the memory of the loved one lost. I would suggest if it was a parent that you have the shrine in a communal room that everyone uses to physically show the child/ children involved that their parent was loved and will be openly remembered even if there came a time that you find new love (if you’re fairly young you may well do several years on). If it’s a child then perhaps the child’s bedroom is a good place for the shrine as you may want to grieve more privately – anywhere, as long as it works for you. A shrine doesn’t need to be elaborate if you’re uncomfortable with that. Just something with a few photographs of the loved one, may be one, or two items that were special to them, any notes or pictures they did for you (NB this could be in a drawer if you chose a table with a drawer section for the shrine) and a candle, or two to light in their memory (remember fire safety and put the matches somewhere out of reach of children) every time you chose to go and remember them.
This is a physical way of keeping the memory of your loved one alive, plus it gives you a special designated area in the house where you can go and positively remember them either by yourself, or with other family members. You can also use the whole family’s creativity when “designing the shrine”. This would be another way to help family members positively deal with all the emotions that grief bring about because it provides a positive focus to channel your energy.
Winston’s Wish Young Ambassador Liv Kyte, who lost her mother to cancer in 2007 puts forward that in addition to spending time and talking about happy memories with family, especially on days like mother’s day, that they also have a memory box full memorabilia such as old cards etc. to help the memories live on. You can even add a mother’s, or father’s day card each year post losing them to the memory box and write in it things you’d want to tell them. I think this compliments the idea of a shrine very well as you could keep a memory box with the shrine and really make remembering your loved one very active and visual, thus it will feel extra special every time. One thing that also came to mind here was it would be a lovely idea to make a memory box look like a treasure chest to symbolise that there are treasured memories inside.
The second idea that I came up with is to set up a charity relating to the disease, condition, or circumstance that you have lost your loved one to in their memory. This is a way to simultaneously remember them whilst helping other people in the same situation. This would especially help any children involved as children enjoy helping other people. It helps them to feel valued and needed and provides a sense of purpose (isn’t that what we’re all looking for?). This is what Bob and Megs Wilson did in 1999 when their daughter Anna died of a progressive form of cancer. They set up the Willow Foundation in her memory to help bring quality of life (fitting with Anna’s own philosophy) in the form of special days out for young people between the ages of 16 and 40 with serious illnesses. So they have created a positive way in that Anna’s memory can actively live on, whilst helping other people in the process. To me this demonstrates how something good can come from something sad and that someone only really dies when all memory of them is lost. So keep the memory of your loved one dancing on in your heart. As Charlie Chaplin puts it; “A day without a smile is a day wasted.”
If you don’t feeling setting up a charity is right for you why not do something special every year to raise money for an existing charity? The obvious choice being one relevant to the circumstance in which your loved one died.
Anyone feeling the pain of bereavement right now please know that support is at hand. Visit my website to view the full length version of this article, which contains a list of charities, websites, books, and strategies to suit your individual situation. Please get in touch if you’re really struggling to cope, [email protected].
Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com