Today is National Children’s Grief Awareness Day and it has been on my heart to dedicate this post not only to our boys but to every bereaved child.
“Children grieve too”. We have unfortunately had to learn this first hand. When there is a sudden, unexpected loss children don’t just start grieving either. No matter the relation of the loved one, a loss impacts children much like adults and it can be too much for their little minds to try to process. This has been so difficult for us, as parents, to attempt to understand how to navigate in the midst of our own grief and trauma.
Luckily, we have wonderful resources like Healing House and Hospice of Acadiana that have been instrumental in the healing journey of not only our boys but for many grieving children here in our community. We knew of these resources already and were reminded to get them involved soon after Mazie went to Heaven.
This time of year during the holiday season can be so hard for the bereaved as while many are joyful and eager to prepare, we are reminded that someone (our Mazie girl) is missing and these days aren’t the same without their physical presence. If I’m being totally honest, fall was always my favorite but now I am struggling to feel like celebrating.
Halloween came way too soon and throughout the holidays that followed, Adam and I remained in shock, both completely numb. It was all a blur. There’s a reason why “they” say year 2 is the hardest. Now, we feel the painful reality that Mazie isn’t with us here and the heaviness looms.
It was just before Thanksgiving last year that we went to Healing House for the first time. The boys were intimidated by the support group setting and not knowing anyone there so we (Adam, my mom and I) sat in the room with them. The facilitator suggested the sweetest activity for the children to remember their loved ones and we will most certainly continue the tradition. They were to write a favorite memory to be thankful for on a piece of paper and place it into a jar. It’s something that every family member can do and can be done anytime, not just on a holiday or a special occasion.
We will spend Thanksgiving week with my family in Texas this year and the memory jar’s going to stay out for anyone to add to. Last year, we were in Orange Beach with Adam’s family and brought it then too.
We are so grateful that Latson and Myles talk about Mazie daily. We are all intentional with incorporating her into everything that’s a part of us and I love that the boys make sure that we do. In reflecting over how their individual grief looks like though, it couldn’t be more different. Latson is more sensitive and internalizes practically everything. Myles, on the other hand, vocalizes whatever he is feeling at any given moment. As a parent, this has been super tough because it has really caught us off guard at times.
There have been a few instances when randomly (like at bath time) Myles will ask a specific question regarding what happened to Mazie. I had not started my EMDR (ptsd therapy) when this came up the first time so it was an instant trigger. Thank goodness Adam was there to help give him an answer. While it may be brief without too many details, the last thing we want to do is avoid his way of processing and either one of them left wondering on their own. Most recently, Myles brought up fears or thoughts of one of us dying. His innocence has been stripped away and at 6 years old he realizes that time isn’t promised.
It has been a challenge to get Latson to open to us about everything he feels but this is why it’s important for them to be in counseling too. It took a few sessions for them to be comfortable but they have benefitted from that devoted time to talk about Mazie and their emotions. For children like Latson, it may be helpful to encourage journaling. It has been a significant source of healing for him and me.
I love these tips for grieving children. Creating an open environment and safe place for the boys has been a constant priority for us. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Adam and I went to counseling together. It helped us to support one another and them, to learn how to communicate our grief and be attentive to each other’s needs as they are all very unique. We want them to learn from us that we can openly share about our feelings and Mazie any time.
Most importantly, we have all grown in our faith – our foundation to healing. We remind them how God has been our source of strength and continues to carry us through our darkest days. Without Jesus, we would barely be surviving. He is how I am still standing and how we all have purpose in our pain. We point out how He has blessed us with the most amazing support system and that we hope to bring them all to Heaven with us one day.
Yes, children grieve too and deserve all the care, love and support in the world – today and every day.