Grief and Childhood Experiences,
18
Sep
Grief and Childhood Experiences

Grief support in Kamloops isn't only for adults. At C&C Resources for Life we believe that children experience trauma and loss that can cause them grief and confusion for the rest of their lives. My name is Jolene Lindsey. I'm a registered social worker who specializes in Children's Grief here at C&C Resources. I want to share a little bit of my own story about grief and loss from childhood and talk about how supporting children in these experiences is a benefit to them.
Grief is a natural response to a loss which we all experience in our own unique way. How we experience grief will depend on our own personalities, our coping skills, and how significant the loss was to us. It will also depend on our spiritual and cultural views of death and mourning, our childhood experiences of grief and how we learned about death and loss, as well as how our modern day society allows us, or doesn’t allow us, to grieve a loss. Grief is a multifaceted blanket that has the ability to smother us for days, weeks, months and even years.

It doesn’t have to though. How we understand and allow ourselves to work through grief can lighten its presence, ease our pain and encourage it to walk alongside us in our life journey, rather than roadblock us.

Losing the Family Pet

As an adult, I can think back to my first experiences of loss. The first was a family pet, our dog Patches. I remember what happened, I remember how I felt and I remember understanding. I remember her being injured and us saying goodbye and her going to the Vet. I also remember burying her ashes after and having a little family funeral for her and a resting place with a cross where we could visit her.

Losing a Grandparent as a Child

In similar childhood years, I lost a grandparent. And for some reason, this loss was much more mysterious and incomplete for me. I wasn’t a part of the goodbyes, there were vague explanations of “grandpa going away” or being very sick, and there was a lot of hushed conversation around it. In my mind, I wondered why we didn’t just tell him to come back after he “went away” or why he didn’t just get better? Or worse…if he’s gone forever from being sick, then I’m terrified of being sick! It was more of a mystery to me and much less concrete than understanding that my dog died and wouldn’t come back.
Looking back, I know it was well intentions of my parents wanting to “protect” us from the pains that life and loss can cause…pains that children shouldn’t have to feel. The reality of them experiencing their grief and trying not to affect us in the process, and of not even knowing what to say or how to explain it all. I understand that this is not uncommon.

Losing my Father as a Teenager

As an adolescent, my experiences with grief became much more intimate. Losing my father to suicide at the age of 17 brought about a crash-course of navigating the grief highway blindfolded in a snowstorm. Luckily, my mother, sister and I travelled this road willingly, and experienced the wholeness of the loss in every aspect, however, not without its destructive detours, hidden valleys and sneaky road traps that ticketed you later in life. Sometimes much later in life.

Grief Changes Us

Our encounters with grief change us. They hurt us, they transform us, they travel with us. The more open we are to allowing ourselves to understand it and experience it, the more willing it will be to set us free and to let us decide where and how it will impact our lives once the stabbing pain and darkness lifts.
For some reason our society has an idea of how we should grieve. We are given time allowances to grieve. We are surrounded by an outcry of support for a period of time and then it dwindles and the rest of the world carries on.

Again, it doesn’t have to be this way. Everyone has the ability to change how our society views grief, how society expects us to grieve and how we expect ourselves to grieve. We get to write that story and the stories that may follow. Which is why, letting children grieve and experience our grief with us, safely, is so important in their present as well as with their journeys ahead.

Children's Grief Support Groups

C&C Resources for Life will be adding Children’s Grief groups to our selection of services to the community of Kamloops this Fall. Please contact us by phone (250-554-4747) or email (ccresourcesforlife@gmail.com), if you are interested in registering.

Some helpful online resources that can help you talk to your children about grief:
www.kidsgrief.ca
www.dougy.org
www.sickkids.ca
www.childrenandyouthgriefnetwork.com

Jolene Lindsey, BSW, MSW, RSW