"Opportunity is always present in the midst of crisis."
Healing After Loss
Helping Kids Cope
The Chinese word for crisis carries two elements, danger and opportunity. No matter the difficulty of the circumstances, no matter how dangerous the situation, ... at the heart of each crisis lies a tremendous opportunity. Great Blessings lie ahead for the one who knows the secret of finding opportunity within each crisis.
Healing After Loss
By: Constance Clancy, Ed.D.
To lose something of material value can suddenly leave us stunned and momentarily beside ourselves. But when we lose someone of value, that loss is magnified a thousand-fold...our lives are changed forever, and our sense of who we are becomes immeasurably shaken.
At some point in our lives, everyone suffers loss--some more than others--yet few of us are prepared for the anguish, the sense of aloneness, and the overwhelming feeling of devastation that follows. There is a defining moment in every person's life that changes us, shaping who and what we are. Loss is often a catalyst for that change, whether the loss is physical, emotional, spiritual or all of the above.
Loss can take place in many forms: death of a child, a parent, a spouse, a close friend or relative; loss of positive childhood experiences; loss of a pregnancy; loss of career and means of support; loss of a close relationship; global loss; loss of what it means to be happy.
The private tragedies that we all so often experience are some of the most tragic forms of loss: family secrets; personal addictions; child abuse; unwanted and unexpected marital discord; infidelity; separation and divorce; physical and emotional abandonment. Associated with the losses inherent in private tragedies are the secrets that keep us from truly knowing ourselves, secrets that can often sabotage healthy relationships with others.
We can heal from loss far more effectively than we are led to believe. First we have to make a decision to heal. To assist in dealing with grief and healing, it is essential that we first have an adequate sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem develops when we feel loved, whole and are able to show love in return.
Balance and incorporate simple things into your life. Take time for your life—this is essential for monitoring your own life's pace. Watch out for expectations of perfectionism, not only does it require a lot of energy, it doesn't exist. Learn to cut corners and to devote more attention to those things that are within your capabilities.
When you experience loss and grief, reestablish your self-confidence by remembering past accomplishments with joy--and don't underestimate the power of prayer. When faced with unpleasant tasks at hand, plan to tackle them head on rather than procrastinate. Pacing life will expedite the healing process and help maintain normalcy as much as possible.
If you are at the beginning of the healing process and your life is full of painful emotions, memories or crisis, the idea of healing over time may seem irrelevant. You may feel terrible now and you want to feel better. You may feel desperate and want answers, and most importantly, you just want the pain to go away. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Healing does take time. You don't just zip through it. Strong feelings will arise as you work through the grief stages of denial, anger, depression, bargaining, until finally you come to an acceptance that life goes on post-tragedy. There is no magical timetable for healing.
Grieving is a natural part of the healing process. As you shed tears and weave in and out of the stages of grief, you are progressively moving on. A person does not simply "get over" a trauma or tragedy. However, through grieving, it is possible to steadily move toward more inner peace.
If you have difficulty getting in touch with your inner grief, or you cannot seem to justify all the sadness you are feeling, take some time to journal and record your losses. Whatever it is that you are grieving, talk about it, feel it, and know that taking time to mark your losses can provide relief and validation.
It might help to ask yourself some of the following questions--addressing these questions can be a cleansing exercise to assist you in the process of healing:*"What opportunities were taken away from me"?
• "What dreams and visions have I lost"?
• "What areas of my life are now lacking because of this"?
• "What might my life be like now had this tragedy not occurred"?
The process of healing is different for each of us. It is a very personal experience. We each have our own journey. My journey is not yours, your mother's, your friend's, spouse's, nor anyone else's but my own. And your journey to healing is uniquely your own. There is no good, bad, right or wrong way to work through the journey.
Be mindful that self-love and acceptance is at the core of any healing. The following guidelines can help as you reclaim your life:
1. Allow yourself time to complete the grieving process.
2. Be aware of your feelings on all levels; physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
3. Bring as much positive energy into all areas of your life, and don't be afraid to reach out and talk about your feelings and emotions.
4. Practice relaxation and incorporate moments of mindful meditation into your daily life.
5. Give yourself breathing space. Slow down and give yourself the necessary time to heal. Remember, you don't "get over" loss, you progressively "move on."
6. Keep a journal of your feelings and what you want for yourself and your life.
7. Ask yourself what your heart and soul wants and what's keeping you from it.
8. Remind yourself that you are in charge of your life at any given time and have a choice to heal or stay wounded.
9. Become aware of any negative attitudes and conscientiously work at letting in some joy and happiness.
10. Remember that you are never alone. Love is everywhere.
Helping Kids Cope With Traumatic Events
By: Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Over the last 15 years, Dr. Bruce Perry has worked with hundreds of children and their families whose lives have been shattered by tragedy. His experience has taught him a great deal about resilience, courage and the tremendous challenges of maintaining and restoring normal life following catastrophic personal trauma. If you are the parent or caregiver of a child who has recently experienced or been exposed to a traumatic occurrence, Dr. Perry offers the following suggestions for helping the child appropriately process the new information, explore ways to cope, and ultimately to feel reassured that the grown-ups in their life are are there for them:
1. Don’t be afraid to talk with your child about the traumatic event(s) Be open, honest, clear and accurate. Children do not benefit from "not thinking about it" or "putting it out of their minds." It is important, however, how you talk about this. Your children will hear some of your conversations with friends, family and your spouse. They may be hearing some of what is on the news because you have on the TV. It is important to make sure that you talk with your child. You should be the healthy filter of information for your child.
2. Find out what your child thinks and feels An important first step in talking with your child is to find out what they have heard and how they feel about that. Young children often make false assumptions about the causes of major events. Often these distortions will magnify his or her sense of fear and make your child more likely to have persisting emotional or behavioural problems. Correct their misperceptions with simple, age-appropriate explanations.
3. Take your child’s lead on when, what and how much to say After you have some sense of what your child knows and how they feel, gauge your answers to their concerns. You do not need to be too detailed or comprehensive. In fact, you may find that the child just acts disinterested or seems to ignore what you are saying. If you let the child control when you discuss this--directed by their questions--you will find that you will have many, many short discussions and not one "big" talk. These little discussions make it easier for the child to digest this huge emotional meal.
4. Don’t feel that you have to have all the answers Some aspects of disturbing world events remain beyond understanding. You can explain that there are some things you just don’t know or understand--and that sometimes we will never know why some things happen. If your child sees that you struggle to make sense of this, their own struggle to do so becomes easier. And when they see you continue to be a solid and caring parent--even when you don’t have all the answers--they'll actually feel safer. The unknown becomes a less frightening thing.
5. Reassure your child Your child may have increased fears about their own personal safety, as well as increased anxiety about the safety of the grown-ups in their life whom they love and depend upon. While many traumatic occurrences happen unexpectedly and it's often difficult to imagine what if any protective measures could have been taken, this is a good opportunity to reassure your child about the many things that can and are done on a daily basis to avoid danger and ensure safety, e.g., using seatbelts, looking before crossing streets, following instructions.
6. Limit your child’s exposure to media coverage Watching televised images of catastrophic events over and over doesn't help your child. In fact, it may make this worse for them. Media coverage can be both inappropriate and highly confusing for children age six and under. If your child does watch the news, watch it with them and then discuss it. Ultimately, the goal is to decrease the traumatic power of images of the traumatic occurrence and that's very difficult when the images permeate the media.
7. Reinforce normal patterns of activity at home It is helpful to keep routines. The sooner there is a familiar structure and predictability to your child’s life, the sooner she or he will feel safe.
8. Anticipate some "regressive" behaviours following traumatic events When children feel overwhelmed, confused, sad or fearful, they will often "regress." And so do adults. You may see a variety of symptoms in your child, including include anxiety (or fearfulness), sadness, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and/or increased impulsivity or aggression. These symptoms are usually short-term (days or weeks) and tend to resolve with reassurance, patience and nurturing. When children feel safe, they will be most likely start to "act their age."
9. Some children will be more vulnerable than others Not all children will react to these events in the same way. Some children may seem disinterested and no changes in their behaviours will be noticed. Other children may have profound symptoms that seem out of proportion to their real connection to these events. We cannot predict how a given child will react but we do know that children with pre-existing mental health or behavioural problems are more likely to show symptoms. We also know that the closer a child is to the actual traumatic event (i.e., if a loved one or family friend was injured or killed) the more severe and persisting the symptoms will be.
10. Your reactions will influence your child’s reactions Your child will sense emotionally intensity around them and will mirror your emotional responses and interpretations. Younger child will try to please you--sometimes by avoiding expressing their own emotions if they sense that it may upset you. Try to gauge your own sense of discomfort and directly address this with the child. It is reassuring to children to know they are not alone in some of their emotional upset. Make sure they hear, many times, that even though it may be upsetting it is still important to share feelings and thoughts with each other.
11. Don’t hesitate to get more advice and help If you feel overwhelmed, or if you see persisting problems with your child, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Seeking the advice of a therapist can help answer your questions and help you get the services your child needs.