Learning and Loss

Loss has become a much more prominent theme in my life more recently for various reasons.

Generally speaking most of us can recall a time when we have felt disconnected from life, others and the situation we are in, or occasions when we just don't know what to do or even how to begin to approach things.

First of all - this is ok!

Nobody is going to have all the answers all the time, and often you need to start with kindness and clear communication.

If someone is experiencing loss of a friendship or other relationship or has had a bereavement, ask them what they need. Their answer may be that they don't know. Again this is ok, if you are the person experiencing bereavement or loss also try to be direct with the people around you.

A friend of mine was asking about my wellbeing and feelings so frequently that it actually became annoying, so I told them how I felt, "assume that my answer is bad with moments of being able to cope until further notice". For them it was a relief, they wanted to help but just didn't know how to. Similarly you don't need to say anything when supporting someone, let your actions do the talking. If you know them well and are acting within your normal relationship boundaries, then making dinner, dropping off shopping, running a bath or just holding them as they express their emotions is more than enough. They might want to be alone too, as social situations might become draining.

One of my nicest evenings came about because I didn't want to talk about things anymore, I just wanted to have someone there without conversation, so a meal was made and consumed and the TV went on what we fancied for the rest of the night. It was a wonderful break from what felt like endless discussions of bereavement and feelings, it was mentally and physically refreshing.

How to talk to children

This is a big thing, and vitally important for the child so I'm going to be very direct here...

Use the proper words "dead, dying, death"

A lot of confusion comes about for children when they don't realise what they are actually being told. Yes it might be uncomfortable for you to talk about, but this is for them, not you and if you can't do it find someone who can explain and make sure they are clear. A lot of adults talk about "going to sleep" this for some, creates a fear of sleeping or of their loved ones sleeping and never waking up. Just save yourself the headache, trust me on this.

Be factual

Don't tell children that Grandma/Spot/whomever have "gone to an island/a farm/be at peace/heaven" this is unhelpful as children can be quite literal and will ask to visit the place or think that the dead might come back (zombies, eek!).

Regardless of what denomination or otherwise you or the family assign yourselves to, when someone is dead they do not sleep, breathe, eat, feel pain, grow or move, they do not do anything that a living person does. This helps children distinguish between living and none living things. It also will likely answer a lot of questions for them about what is going on.

Answer the question

Children will ask endless questions and in some cases they will repeat their own questions numerous times. This is how they process and make sense of what is going on, please be patient and keep answering them, if you don't know the answer then tell them that too, or see if someone else can answer the question for them. If they don't want to talk then don't force them, often setting up an activity to do with them is more helpful, as they may chat to you whilst you do it.

Finally, all I would say is seek the help you need in whatever format, practical, emotional or professional. We all process differently and so do children, they pretty much play hopscotch with the different stages of grief, as can some adults, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, just the way that works for each of you.

Take care x

nurcha natter