I came across blog for the first time this evening called griefministerdotcom. It looks rather interesting as a resource for people as they struggle through the grief process. Additionally, it appears to be a resource for professionals providing bereavement support as well. I came to this blog because of the most recent post, Children and Grief, which the author posted to LinkedIn. It is good to see people writing on such sensitive topics.
It had been an emotional evening as children, teens, and adult family members gathered in early December to prepare for the difficult holiday season ahead. All of the GriefWorks children and their families had lost a significant loved one. GriefWorks http://grief-works.org is a free grief support program serving children in North Texas ages 5-18 and their families. Some of the children have lost a parent. Others have lost a sibling or a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. Although all of the losses in the children’s grief support group were unique, all of the mourning families had one thing in common. They were all missing their loved one at a time of the year when the importance of family being together is stressed and so valued.
The most touching element of the annual GriefWorks Commemoration is a candle lighting ceremony in which children and family members can honor and remember what their missing loved one has given them. One by one the GriefWorks families came forward as their loved one’s name was called. Each child lit a candle and had an opportunity to share some important, valued memory about their loved one.
Once the families had all lit a candle, we gave staff members and volunteers who had lost a loved one during the past year an opportunity to participate also. One by one the staff and GriefWorks volunteers lit candles and shared their losses with the group.
Just two months prior to the commemoration ceremony my 76 year-old mother had died of lung cancer. I struggled with the pros and cons of lighting a candle in tribute to her. Somehow at that time it seemed too soon for me to be able to share my very personal grief publicly. I wasn’t sure if I could light the candle without having a major grief outburst in front of a group of impressionable, vulnerable children. (Yes, I know that grief outbursts are healthy but I, just like you, struggle at times with when and where it is appropriate for me to mourn publicly.)
But when the opportunity came, I lit the candle in honor of my mother. I shared with the group my mother’s name, the details of her death and how much I would miss her. My tears welled up as I spoke, but the devastating grief outburst that I had feared did not happen.
After I closed the commemoration service with a prayer, one of our five year olds came up to me. She held out her arms and asked if I would give her a hug. The mother of this five year old had been brutally murdered. I never turn down a hug from a mourning five year old. As I leaned down to hug her, she whispered in my ear, “I know you miss your Mommy too.”
I continue to be amazed that a five year old child can reach out from the depths of her sorrow over the loss of her young mother to comfort me, a man old enough to be her grandfather. We adults sometime wonder in our efforts to reach out to mourning children if they get our intended messages about grief. Believe me, children and teens in grief get it. Time spent in supporting and comforting children in grief is time well spent for now and for generations to come.
From (c) 2011, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT in “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.
Watch the Love Never Dies YouTube video http://youtu.be/-T0zt0ZSsNE. Follow me on Twitter. To volunteer to work with mourning children, teens and adults at GriefWorks, call 972-960-9981 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 972-960-9981 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email for information to firstname.lastname@example.org.