Do Children Mourn?

Instead of talking openly about death, you often hear people tell children “They went to be with God.” “They went to heaven where they were needed.” “They’re sleeping.” Do children really understand what is happening?

Families with young children often wonder what to say to them. They may be anxious about discussing death or mentioning the person’s name. They may not allow children to attend funerals, thinking it would be “too traumatizing.”

How death affects the life of a child depends on their age and developmental stage. How they mourn and adjust to this loss will depend on the adults and caregivers surrounding them. We need to talk to children about death using words and concepts they will understand. We are all individuals. What is helpful for some, may not be helpful for others, but here are some guidelines that may assist:

Infants to two years old:

They will sense loss and pick-up on the reactions of the adults around them. They may change their eating, sleeping and toilet habits. Keeping a routine is important.

2-6 year olds: Family is the center of their world. There is no understanding of death’s finality: they see the Roadrunner drop an anvil on Wile E. Coyote and no one dies. They believe that dead people still eat., drink, etc., only “in heaven.” Their thinking is magical “You wish it – it happens.” They may ask over and over, “Where did Grandpa go? Is he coming back?” It is important to use the right words to describe what happened. “Grandpa died. He is not going to come back. We miss him.”

6-9 year olds: At this age children may personify death. “death is a monster that took my Daddy away.” The finality is becoming more real. Expressing the sense of anger, guilt, or sadness is difficult to do with words; mourning is often expressed in behaviors. Allow the child to express their feelings. Help them understand they feel sad or mad “because Mom died and it is a very, very sad thing that happened to us.”

9-12 year olds: The finality of death is more real in their thinking. They may see it as a punishment for poor behavior. Their sense of right and wrong is stronger. They need reassurances that they did not do anything to cause this death. They have many more questions about burials and who will care for them now.

Teenagers: They understand death as inevitable and may have experienced the death of a friend or schoolmate. However, they do not believe it will happen to them. They think more like an adult, but they may not have the verbal skills to express their loss in words.

Some tips: Talking about death for all children is easier if they feel they have permission to say anything on their mind. This is not always easy for adults, but it goes a long way in helping the child feel secure. For younger children, answers need to be shorter. Children will take information, go play and come back with more questions. Each child is an individual. What helps one 8-year old may not help another. Children will experience anger, guilt and fear. They need reassurance they will continue to be cared for and loved. Children mourn the loss at each developmental stage of their lives. So as they age, they may need more information about the death, or they may express strong grief reactions many years after the death of the loved one. If you don’t know what is going on with this child, ask. They will tell you.

By Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT, – Director of Bereavement

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2019 Each Moment Matters Luncheon Benefiting Faith Presbyterian Hospice Caring Fund

Presbyterian Communities and Services Foundation announces the 2019 Each Moment Matters Luncheon. This is the 10th anniversary celebration of the signature fundraising event for Faith Presbyterian Hospice. This year it will be held on Thursday, October 3 at the Hilton Anatole. We are pleased to share that our co-chairs are Andy Walsh and Thear Suzuki and our honorary chairs are Laura and Tom Leppert. The guest speaker will be Kim Campbell. She is the founder of CareLiving.org, an advocate for people with dementia and their families, and wife of the late legendary country/pop star Glen Campbell.

 

Andy Walsh and Thear Suzuki
2019 Each Moment Matters Luncheon Chairs
and
Laura and Tom Leppert
2019 Honorary Luncheon Chairs

Invite You To
SAVE THE DATE
10th Anniversary Celebration of the Each Moment Matters Luncheon

Thursday, October 3, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Hilton Anatole
2201 N. Stemmons Freeway
Dallas, Texas 75207

With Guest Speaker
KIM CAMPBELL
To sponsor a table, please email eachmomentmatters@prescs.org

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Getting Through Grief

We were taught that grief and mourning occurred in stages or phases, occurring in orderly fashion, one after the other and once completed we would be finished with our grief. The work of grief is now recognized as tasks to be completed. We may work at them one at a time, or sometimes all at once. Some of them repeat, and some of them may not be experienced at all. Our biggest need is to find meaning in the midst of our loss. Tasks are things we can choose to do, working through these can bring comfort, peace and hopefully eventually, joy.

Accept the reality of the loss. Accepting the reality of the loss sounds easy enough. We know they died. But every day in God’s good mercy we start all over again and remember. Sometimes it’s when we begin to pick up the phone to call and ask, “What’s for dinner?” Or it’s noticing that gift mom would have really liked, and having to put it back down. Or it’s hearing a certain song on the radio. We remember. Our head knows what our heart does not want to hear! At some point the remember will not be overwhelmingly sad. The heartbreak will start to heal. When? When it’s time.

Embrace the pain of the loss. This doesn’t sound reasonable. What does this mean? Our tendency is to move away from this pain. We work hard at denying it and avoiding it. When in reality the only way out (of this pain) is to work through it. With time the pain will lessen.

Adjust to this new life –without the person in it. This is not a task that gets done and stays done. It’s a matter of adjustments that come up each day. We did not choose this life, but we can choose how we live it. And we can choose whom we ask to help us through.

Reinvest in our lives. While this is a large task and can be overwhelming, it begins almost immediately after the loss. As mental and emotional energy begins to return, we can invest in ourselves and our families.

By Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT, – Director of Bereavement

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Two Steps Forward … Three Steps Back

During a grief support group, a woman who had lost two brothers within a month of each other – one in a car accident, the other of a heart attack – expressed her frustration to the group, “I think I am doing okay and then I slide back.”

The group had been describing their grief journey, how long ago their loved one had dies, and their reactions to this loss – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They decided they wanted to know in what stage would the endless tears, loss of faith, sadness, overwhelming loneliness, and extreme exhaustion end. Illnesses are often explained in stages or phases. When the illness or disead is detected, the prognosis is labeled “stage 1” or “in the beginning phases.” We carry this measurement into grief. The stages of grief have become a part of our language and belief system. Our grief is thought of in terms of symptoms. We treat a symptom with medication, therapies and we monitor the symptom, giving it a rating, better or worse. The idea, of course is that we will get better and the symptom will go away.

Grief does not go away; there is not cure because it is not an illness or disease.

Grief is often described as a journey or a voyage. A journey that we have to take sooner or later if we have loved ones. This journey is on-going; there are no wrong turns. There are difficult passages and with time the road becomes smoother, the path easier to walk, and our steps more certain. There are times when we take two steps forward and three steps back. Much like those grief reactions, one day we smile and in the middle of the smile we begin to remember and the memory brings tears. We decide to stay home or decline invitations to meet with family for friends, because we need to find comfort.

In making this journey several grief theorists (J. William Worden, Alan Wolfelt and Theresa Rondo) have given us tasks to work through for a healthy grief journey.  These are not often easy.

  • First, acknowledge the reality of this death. This appears simple, but as we go through our day, we are reminded of that person, what roles they played in our life. Our head knows what our heart does not want to feel.
  • Next, embrace all the reactions to this death, anger, tearfulness, exhaustion – and know these are part of the journey and not a measure of grief. There is no measure to your loss. These reactions are not good or bad, they are part of the grief journey. Each one of us experiences these in different degrees and intensities.
  • Third, be willing to adjust to life without your loved one. We fight this leg of the journey; with every new task we take on that was theirs; we remember they are no longer here.
  • Fourth, reinvest in your life. Some call this a new “life” or a new “normal.” This task may take some time to begin and it is ongoing.
  • Next, remember you loved one – honestly – the good, the bad and the ugly. Honor all of them.
  • Invite others on this journey. Someone who has had a similar loss may be a good guide on this pathway.
  • Lastly, find times to honor your loved one – attend memorials or create spontaneous moments of remembrance. Look for what brings you comfort, peace and joy. Know that this will change as you travel on this journey.

By Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT, – Director of Bereavement

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Letting Go

You could hear the widower’s anguish as he shared with the other support group members. “What do people mean when they say I have to “let go?” Do I have to let go of my wife?” The listeners shook their heads. They knew where he was going.

“they want me to send all her clothes to Goodwill and to rearrange the house. They want me to go out with other people. But … how could I ever stop loving my wife?”

When people tell us to let go … do they mean forget the old life in order to move on?

Some will-intentioned people have sure-cure tasks for us. They say we should clean out closets, and put away reminders. What they really want is for us to stop hurting. They want us to stop crying, and to stop pacing the floors at night. They want to stop the pain for us. They mean well.

The first step.

This kind of advice seldom helps because our personal grief journey is unique to each of us, as unique as our finger prints. Finding comfort is our first step. Cleaning out the closet was not comforting to this man. So the group encouraged him to wait until the time was right, when he didn’t feel overwhelmed with sadness.

We need the opposite of forgetting.

Comfort comes in remembering, not in forgetting. We remember our times together, good and band, and the struggles and the triumphs. For some, comfort comes from visiting the grave site daily. For others, visiting would be too sad. For some, talking about their loved one is comforting. But finding friends who will listen without trying to hurry you through your grief is difficult.

After some discussion, the group members came to the conclusion that letting go does not mean you have to stop loving. Cleaning a closet only removes the clothes, not the person, and not their love.

If there’s anything we need to let go of, it’s the expectation that grief has a time limit. One widow explained that although her husband died two years ago. “Some days it feels like yesterday, and other days it feels much longer … time is funny.”  The journey takes time. A support group can be invaluable because members are willing to allow for all the questions and grief reactions that you express.

Ideas and thoughts that might help along the way:

  • When you receive advice from well-intentioned family and friends, say “Thank you.” They do care and it is difficult to see your loved one mourn.
  • Find two people who will listen to all the stories about your life and concerns and questions, who do not feel the need to tell you “it’s time to move on.”
  • Empty closets or clean the garage when you feel ready. Allow for tears of anger or sadness or loneliness, they are healing.
  • Remember you never have to let go of your loved one.
  • There is no time limit to grief, there is no finish line.

The process of accepting what your head knows – “My loved one has died,” and what your heart knows, “Please don’t let this be true” – takes time. Give yourself the gift of time.

By Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT, – Director of Bereavement

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When Will I Stop Crying?

Her husband had died a few months ago. While visiting in their home, his widow told me about the ways her life had changed, and the ways it had begun to settle down. Then she asked me this question:

“When will I stop crying?”

For a moment, I wanted to reassure her that all this would pass. I wanted to say, “Time heals all wounds.” “He is in a better place now.” The desire to comfort someone by drying their tears and taking them away is strong.

Instead, we talked about her husband. We spoke about when they met, when he asked her to marry him, where they lived and how many children they have.

She told me about some of the things that fall into place as a couple – which one was the accountant, which one cooked, and who planned their vacations. In short, I began to learn the answers to the question, “Who was this man?” She told me about their lives together. I found myself laughing many times, and wiping away my own tears. The love they had for each other and their family was a presence in the room. It surrounded us and brought her comfort and joy, as well as tears.

I asked if she thought she would ever stop loving him. Her answer was a whispered, “No.”

Then, I said, “You will never stop crying. Your crying however will change.”

We spoke about tears being one of many reactions we experience when grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes though, our grief is complicated by unspoken family rules. The message may be, “Tears are a sign of weakness. Stop crying and be strong.”

Or, we may use tears to measure our grief and our progress. It’s easy to think, “When I stop crying, my grief will be healed.” “I haven’t cried in two weeks, so I must be better now.” I often hear, “The other day I started crying in the grocery store and I had to run to my car … I thought I was over this.”

There is no easy way to answer the question, “When will I stop crying? If you are like most of us, you will never stop crying completely. You will go through the pain and sorrow and all the reactions that come emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically, as you mourn the loss. But you can help yourself through this journey.

Find those who will listen to the story of your life with your loved one. Embrace all the grief reactions. One day they may be strong. The next, they may be gone, then return two weeks later. The work of grief and mourning is learning to understand that the relationship to your loved one will change from one of a tangible focus to one of the heart. Taking time for this journey is important. Let those around you know that the tears may flow freely one day, and stop completely another.

There are no grief police who can write you a ticket if you start crying six months later, or even two years later. No passing grade will be given if your grief bursts only happen in private, not in the parking lot at the cleaners. The goal is to find comfort, peace and at times, joy through this time of mourning. With time, both the reactions and the tears soften.

At my next visit, she told me she had informed her family that she would most likely cry every day for some time, but she was not sure how long. She invited them to cry with her, to look for the comfort and peace the tears brought, and to remember him with joy.

By Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT, – Director of Bereavement

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Dr. Peralta Joins Faith Presbyterian Hospice and the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center

Dr. Alexander Peralta joins Faith Presbyterian Hospice and the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center as chief medical director.  Dr. Peralta is a diplomat for the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and is Hospice Medical Director Certified. He has a wide range of recognitions, honors and activities, including serving on Parkland’s Health System – Hatcher Station Health Center Advisory Board and the National Hospice and the Palliative Home Care Speaker’s Bureau, guest faculty at MD Anderson Cancer Center Intensive Board Review Courses and was clinical faculty of the first accredited fellowship in hospice palliative medicine in the United States in 2005. In addition, Dr. Peralta has launched several successful hospice programs, and he believes the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center will help redefine intensive human caring at life’s end.  In the center, he plans to focus on integrative medicine, which combines traditional and complimentary alternative medicine including music and dance thanatology, meditation modalities, pharmacognosy and sand therapy.  His vision is to weave clinical and academic components together to create an environment of collegiality where hospice and palliative care teams develop achievable goals amongst clinicians that will impact the care of patients in all settings.

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Faith Presbyterian Hospice’s Child and Family Bereavement Center – 2017 Crystal Charity Ball Beneficiary

We are pleased to announce that through the fundraising efforts of the Presbyterian Communities and Services Foundation, Faith Presbyterian Hospice’s Child and Family Bereavement Center is a 2017 grant recipient from Dallas’ Crystal Charity Ball. The Child and Family Bereavement Center provides programs such as Camp Faith and Faith Kids.  Camp Faith is a one day camp offering grief education and encouragement for kids ages 3-18 who have lost a parent or grandparent. Faith Kids is a free monthly support group for children 3-18 years and their families who have experienced the loss of a parent or grandparent.  Groups are held every 2nd Thursday of the month for six months.  Children and families are invited to openly share their grief experience in a safe and supportive environment.  You can read the full announcement in My Sweet Charity here.

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Jannetta Lingle Announced as Director of Clinical Services for the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center

Jannetta Lingle brings a history of hospice experience with increasing levels of responsibility and success. For the previous 11 years, she held several positions with Providence Healthcare Network, last serving as director of Providence Hospice in Whitney, Texas, for four years and additional director responsibility for the last year at a second location in Mexia, Texas. Jannetta has a diverse nursing background in hospice, case management, admission nursing, ICU critical care, quality control and administration.

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