Sometimes I write my blogs around things that come up in sessions. Sometimes I have an idea brewing in my head for several weeks and write about that. Other times I hear or see something and feel like I have to share it with people. This week is one of the latter. While driving around with my wife this week I heard a beautiful piece on This American Life. The segment talked about grief and the needs of children going through grief and loss.
While listening to this segment I thought about all the people I have worked with over the years struggling with grief and loss. The place I always see people get stuck in is being closed off to their emotional experience. Everybody grieves differently and nobody can tell you how you should do it and how long it should take, but you need to find a way to be open to your own grieving process and allow yourself to experience your emotions. It is when we try to stifle and lock away our grief that things go wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, grief is painful! Terrible! There have been some studies that have shown that significant loss activates the same areas of the brain that are responsible for physical pain, and most people would choose a broken arm over a broken heart any day! (read more here) But you have to experience that hurt or it will lock itself away in you and cause problems down the road, resurfacing at times, and preventing you from feeling a sense of closure and peace with what has happened.
Children tend to grieve in ways that are different from adults. They can communicate through play, art, anger and aggressive outbursts. Regardless of the way they do it, the important thing is that they be encouraged and allowed to express what they feel. This is the biggest problem people tend to describe when in therapy for grief and loss; the idea that people will or do judge them and the feeling that whatever emotions they have might be wrong, unacceptable, or burdensome to others. It is important for those going through grief to feel supported, unjudged, and that their emotions are valid and heard.
The following is the segment I mentioned from This American Life. ***Disclaimer, the segment contains children talking frankly about death, including suicide. This may be difficult for some people to hear.***
***At the time of writing this, I wasn’t able to get the above widget to work.
If it isn’t working you can follow this link to get the segment.***
I have a therapist friend and colleague who went through significant loss in her life several years ago. Just the other day she spoke on a radio program about the importance of allowing oneself to grieve. Check it out if you’d like to hear more about the subject.
If you or anyone you love is struggling with grief and loss, counseling may be helpful. Therapy helps people struggling with grief by providing them with a safe, caring, nonjudgemental environment to openly express and process their emotions and to speak their truths. Please give me a call if you have any questions or would like to talk about counseling. I offer free brief phone consultations for new clients.