Do you have kids? If not, surely you were once a child yourself.
Either way you’re probably familiar with the feeling of being small and starting to understand the world around you in ways that made it difficult for your parents to explain. Maybe it was the first time you heard the f-word used in a movie. Maybe your mother struggled to find the right words when your father moved out of the house and in with a different family.
Maybe it was when your pet cat, Felix, died. Did someone deliver a eulogy? Did anyone say anything comforting… at all?
Friends, November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. And since sharing is caring, I’m asking you to help me spread the good word. The National Alliance for Grieving Children is committed to serving as a catalyst for leading a national movement to educate, advocate and raise awareness about the needs of grieving children, teens & their families. They have launched “Grief Talk Live” with a variety of powerful resources and content, all available on the link above, for you to share with your loved ones.
Why do we need to address children’s grief at this time? Because the western world does a terrible job accepting and processing death. And right now there are hundreds of thousands of families affected by fatalities during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
For the past two years, what I keep hearing from speakers, teachers, doulas, nurses, doctors, writers and peers in my end-of-life community, is how much work there is to do when it comes to educating the public about death. We need more clarity and transparency – more people sharing stories of grief and healing – and more missions designed to move us forward and away from being a death phobic society. Helping to get these necessary conversations going is one little way I’ve been able to help serve my different communities.
Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors, Friends!
In honor of Children’s Grief Awareness Month, I’d like to share with you a recent experience. Combining my lifelong interest in child psychology (the classes I took in college only piqued my curiosity more) with my passion for end-of-life literacy, I embarked on a series of interviews with 9-10 year olds to better understand how they process grief.
At the start of this journey, however, I found two very different types of parents. In one camp Mom or Dad were open-minded, ready to have a conversation about ‘adult’ topics with their littles. They had a deep desire to treat their kin like the sensitive and sophisticated thinkers that they are. Camp two? Completely spooked, fearing the subject altogether. When I simply said the words death and dying – I could see tension contorting their faces. They had no interest in talking to their kids about these matters, and they seemed to struggle with the topic themselves.
And there we are, folks: Death Phobic America. Perhaps denial works because it allows us to avoid the big questions about meaning and purpose. But delaying the inevitable means struggling when the day finally arrives. Cheetah the family goldfish is going to expire. Then what? Will you lie to your kiddoes and tell them their beloved amphibian is taking an extremely long nap? Let’s get R.E.A.L.
I am not a doctor nor a therapist but hello! The anxiety belongs to the parent more than anything else. Children are curious kittens. Gentle, open and far more mature than their parents give them credit for. The bigger tragedy is yet to come, when the repressed fears surrounding death get passed down to their kin. How do y’all think we got to be so repressed in the first place? Learned behavior. In the West we still treat death as a taboo subject – much like money, politics & sex.
The silver lining in this story is the tide has been turning for some time now. There are amazing organizations around the world – including the heroes at NAGC – uniting to bring more death education and awareness to their communities. I started Dying To Be Green to chronicle this revolution!
So, Beloveds, let us spend this time wisely – let’s use the tragedy of a public health emergency as an opportunity for continued growth. I am not OK with passing the baton, riddled with adult anxieties, to the next generation – and I hope you aren’t either.