If your days have been feeling as though they’re all running together – know that today is FRIDAY! Woohoo! I hope you can find some joy this weekend.
If you feel like every person you cross paths with is cranky, rude, or negative – know that their emotional gunk isn’t yours. But, it may help you feel better to continue to be you. Don’t dim your positivity for the sake of making the other person feel comfortable. I’ve been on the other side of this. I’m sure you have, too. You’re in a cranky mood, and someone you speak to is just full of smiles and joy and, you wonder to yourself: “How can you be so damn happy all of the time?” And, you know what? It’s more of a reflection of ourselves. We can project our joy onto others, or we can project our pain.
And, I realize that’s the difficulty. I’ve written about telling the emotional truth about ourselves many times before. Yet, here I am saying that if you’re feeling negative, not to mention the emotional truth about yourself- not to project it onto others. However, there’s a difference between telling the emotional truth and treating others poorly because we feel – emotionally deficient.
We will not always be happy – about our life situation, the state of the world, a decision that’s been made, our health, the weather – you name it. However, if we can acknowledge, within ourselves, that which isn’t working, feeling right, or aligning our soul with joy, and meet that hurt within us with compassion, then we are more equipped to share the truth – without mistreating others in the process.
As we start to work through our emotional stuff (and continue to do so), we are less affected by others’ emotional dis-ease. And, I can tell you, I am much quicker to recognize now (because I keep applying grief recovery to my life) when I am a projector of the negative. I have learned that that’s when it’s time to step out of my head and into my heart, and know where there’s emotional work to do. As a result, this makes me a happier person – in my skin and to be around.
Life is for learning. When you feel like you’ve messed up – apologize. When you feel like you’re at your breaking point – step away, take a break, and hit the reset button. Ask yourself what you can do in the situation rather than focusing on what is out of your hands (I’ve been doing my darndest to put this one into practice as of late).
We are in community with each other whether we like it or not. So, rather than fret over others whom you can’t change, fret over a situation that’s frustrating the, you know what, out of you, and being frustrated with yourself – hit reset. Sometimes, we need to be alone – not in community with others, to do just that. When we’re in each other’s spaces, we’re also in each other’s energy. You’re doing the best you can steeping in everyone’s energy. But the most important person’s energy you need to pay attention to – is your own.
I know it’s not easy these days to manage our own energy either. I had been struggling with this, too. And, you know – I gave myself Reiki. True story. I gave myself Reiki before bed a few nights recently, and despite having fewer hours of sleep, I had better quality sleep. Another thing that feels like a reset at the end of the day? A shower. Yup. Sounds silly, as the majority of the people I know typically shower in the morning. However, I prefer to shower at night. You literally wash away the stress of the day down the drain and crawl into bed, feeling refreshed (and reset).
So today, I want you to pat yourself on the back that yes, you are doing the best you can. And, I hope this helps you to reflect on your energy and the energy of those around you. How is the energy of others affecting you? How is your energy affecting those around you, too? When I feel good, I influence those around me to feel better, also.
Even if it may seem annoying to others who project their pain on others (because they’re not tapped into their energy and their impact it has) – work on a reset for YOU. This reset is the best thing you can do this Friday and throughout the weekend, before the start of a new week.
Set the intention today for a fantastic weekend, regardless of the chaos that may be ensuing around you. Turn off the phone if you need to. Get a hotel room or an Airbnb by yourself for a night, if you need to. Take a drive on the backroads, or in the country, and photograph what you find along the way. Take a lawn chair and sit by the lake (or the ocean) and steep in the stillness.
Reset for your energy (and your mindset), so you can continue to do the best you can! And, if you need help with an emotional reset for life, reach out to me. I know the program that’s perfect for doing just that. 😉
P.S. Are you looking for support for a grieving child in your care? I am looking for four participants to walk through the NEW online group program, Helping Children with Loss. We meet on Zoom only four times – once a week, for no more than 2 1/2 hours each time. And know that there’s lots of material to cover. You won’t be a silent listener (bored out of your mind) as I lecture each week for four weeks. It’s participatory and engaging content, where you interact with others in the group, and learn some new skills and tools to utilize for the rest of your life. This program is prevention, so whether you’re a parent, daycare provider, social worker, school faculty, a child therapist looking for more knowledge around grief specifically, or work in the foster care/adoption system – this program is for you – the adult. The first group will be offered at a discounted rate, which will allow me to make sure all of my systems and processes are correctly in place and that there aren’t any hiccups—interested in learning more? Please email me at [email protected] or message via the Contact tab.
I look forward to sharing this amazing program with you – for the better of the child(ren) in your life!
In today’s first episode as part of an educational series, I define grief in a way you’ve likely never heard it described before. By providing relatable examples and some of my personal story, you’ll leave this episode feeling like you have a better understanding of grief.
When we understand that grief is more than just about death, we are able to shed light on all areas of our life that feel emotionally incomplete and begin the healing process.
Be sure to tune into next week’s episode, where I’ll be sharing why and how grief keeps us stuck.
Are you wanting more content like this? Head on over to Instagram or Facebook where I share more info just like this, and say hello!
Victoria Volk 0:08 This is Victoria of theunleashedheart.com and you’re listening to Grieving Voices, a podcast for hurting hearts who desire to be heard. Or, anyone who wants to learn how to better support loved ones experiencing loss. As a 30 plus year griever, and an advanced grief recovery method specialist, I know how badly the conversation around grief needs to change. Through this podcast, I aim to educate grievers and non-grievers alike, spread hope, and inspire compassion towards those hurting. Lastly, by providing my heart with the ears and this platform, grievers have the opportunity to share their wisdom and stories of loss and resiliency. How about we talk about grief like we talked about the weather? Let’s get started.
Hello in today’s episode we are going to dive into the definition of grief. And I like to start with the dictionary’s definition, which is defined as a noun of deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. And the example it gives is she was overcome with grief. The informal definition is trouble or annoyance; we were too tired to cause any grief. I just find it interesting that grief is defined as a noun, whereas I think anyone that’s lost anybody close to them, or has experienced trauma, or divorce, miscarriage, anything like that. To say it’s a noun I don’t know if that does it justice. I would like to say that grief is more like a feeling. And a grief recovery Institute defines grief as the normal and natural reaction to change or loss of any kind. And grief by any other name, such as stress, or burnout, even PTSD, sometimes you’ll hear the phrase complicated grief, maybe even depression is still grief. Grief is also the response to a change in or end of any familiar pattern of behavior. So, you know, consider the current times with COVID-19 with the racial and justice and unrest going on in the world. There’s a lot of grief in response to the changes. It is about mixed emotions also so you can graduate from high school and still be very sad and have grief over, leaving home, leaving your familiar environment, and patterns of behavior. And going into the unknown really, a woman can have grief when she has a child because especially I would say I’m speaking for myself, having my first child. Everything that you thought you knew about life about yourself; the things that you took for granted, really change in an instant, really. Someone who is dealing with addiction and perhaps are in treatment or are let’s say like myself, I’ve given up alcohol it’s been six months now. And I don’t have excuse me, although I don’t have grief around the alcohol itself. You know, you can see there’s dynamics kind of change in a relationship sometimes. And that’s kind of a side topic but, when it comes to addiction, and I’m not saying like, I was a full-blown alcoholic. Personally, I, I really just lacked some self-control at times, and it just really wanted to be a better role model for my kids. But someone who is going through treatment and addiction is all that they’ve known for several months, probably several years. That’s a life that they are having to say goodbye to. And often that comes with having to say goodbye to relationships that were unhealthy and, and hurtful, really. So we can experience grief more often in our lives than we think. Then just when someone we love passes away or dies. Grief is also the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there for you. Only to find that when you need them one more time, they’re not there. Or reaching out for someone who’s never been there for you only to find that when you need them one more time. They’re still not there. So this happens often too with family. You know, you can have a relationship with a parent, and you can feel like they’ve never been there for you. Maybe they have been haven’t been emotionally available. Maybe they were physically there. But like I said, emotionally, they were indifferent and not attentive to your needs, emotional needs, maybe even your physical needs, hugs kisses, things like that affection. These things that we long for growing up as children. You know, that’s how we understand connection. That’s how we understand how to build relationships and to let people in, right? So when we are neglected of that opportunity that grief is kind of stays with us. It does stay with us. And it’s kind of foolish to think that learning how to deal with grief in that way, as in like, you’re not like those feelings aren’t valid or aren’t needed to thrive, in relationships or in life. That greatly impacts you intuitive adulthood likewise, as an adult, you know, your family if you feel like, you know, that they’ve always been there for you, and then all of a sudden they’re not whether it is death that separates you or they move away. Um, you know that those are grief causing instances as well. So I think we tend to have this narrow scope, idea of grief. And I think that’s where a lot of people misunderstand that. Grief is more than just about death. Being a victim of sexual trauma. There is a lot of grief that can happen because of that because you can then experience it’s not just what was taken from you, but it is loss of trust, loss of safety, loss of security. It’s almost like putting fire or putting gasoline on the fire. You know, it’s like taking the screwdriver and just twisting it just a little bit more. It’s these intangible losses that we experience as a result of it a devastating life-altering experience, right.
So, I just really want you to consider and think about all the ways that you’ve been grieving and, and the things that you’ve been grieving that you never really thought that you are grieving until hearing this right now. So, as a kid, did you move a lot? Were you a military brat, like they say? Were you just really never were given the opportunity to create connections with others or you’ve maybe felt: “Why bother, we’ll be moving anyway in a year” if it was just this natural occurrence or you just like expected it. So you never did put the effort in, because you just didn’t want to feel that loss. Again. And that’s not just the children in the family unit that can be the parents as well. How often do military families move about from base to base and maybe even country to country and never can really settle. And maybe have a hard time doing so because, you know, it’s just you’re gonna have to say goodbye anyway, so why bother, right? Hopefully, that’s not the case. But likely it is. and likely you’ve experienced grief because of it – you and your children. So, or how about as a kid, you had, you know, your first dog. And because you’re moving, you had to give it away. So it’s not even just moving. This would be especially hard maybe for a child. But it’s not just the idea of moving it is, well, we’re moving and I have to give away my beloved dog. So it’s the loss of the relationship that that child has to the dog. It’s the loss of relationship that they have to what they knew is their home. And if it’s, you know, a different town and it’s saying goodbye to their friends, there can be many losses wrapped up into one larger experience. I just think that there are so many examples out there. We know graduating from high school, leaving your friends, getting married, can be a grief experience in a way too because depending on when you get married. Let’s say you don’t get married ’til, you know, later in life, late 30s 40s. You’ve had a long time to get settled in, set in your ways, and get used to how life is right? Come and go as you want> Do what you want when you want. You don’t have to really answer to anybody. There’s a lot of freedom in that lifestyle. And hopefully, you’re, you’re welcoming someone else into it and you want someone else into it, and that’s why you’re getting married. But that doesn’t discount the fact though, that it is a major change. And you may experience grief along with that. Maybe to your spouse to be doesn’t, is allergic to cats, and you have to get rid of your cat that you’ve had for 5,6,7 years. Who knows, right? Um, I could give so many examples. Let’s see.
There are mean, I mean, I could really think of some terrible examples, but that would be just depressing. Let’s see. So how about like, I just really am trying to get you to really truly think about all of the losses that you may have experienced that you really didn’t think about until now. You know, and I think too, like just in the context of relationships. You know, I’ve had friendships that have fallen away a few by my choice sometimes, because, you know, sometimes we get into different phases of our lives than those who are in our lives. And it can be hard to relate. It can be hard to find comments. analogies are common things to talk about. Not always but you know if it can happen and, and people can choose to, to just decide that you know what I need to move on from this friendship or relationship. And there is nothing wrong with that. But there’s always going to be one person who feels maybe slighted or grief or sad or maybe angry. Because grief happens in the context of relationships and, you know, aside from those intangible losses, but because it happens first in the context of relationships, just think about all the different relationships that you’ve been in. And people have come and gone out of your life. And maybe, like I said, maybe it was a situation that you chose to back away from. You know, and something might remind you of them and take you back in time and you feel like Gosh, I wish I would have said this, or I wish I would have done that differently. Because grief two is anything that we wish would be different, better, or more. And, and that’s in the context of relationships. And it can be with someone who is living and someone who has died, I can still wish that my relationship with some loved ones would have been different, better or more. And it’s a loss to have hopes, dreams, and expectations. So especially with like miscarriage. When you lose a child It doesn’t matter if it’s nothing carriage or you just lose a young child or your child at any age really, because you always have these hopes and dreams and expectations. As a parent these as you know, you, you expect that they’re gonna outlive you, first of all, you never expect that you’re going to bury a child you never hope to. And I just, I could not imagine so my heart goes out to you if you’re listening to this. And that has been the case for you, but I, it is, that is, that is grief. And I’m sorry, but grief is not a noun. Grief is not a noun, it is a feeling and you know, the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations that you would have for your child upon them passing away. That’s really hard to get over. It’s really, really difficult. And likewise, if you’re in a relationship with someone living and they are in your life, you know, sometimes you can’t choose your family, right? And you wish that the relationship would be different, better or more. That’s grief as well. So I’ve kind of talked a lot about like different things that cause grief. And, you know, I really highlighted the fact that it starts in our childhood often with, you know, a loss of a pet or moving. You know, in my instance, my grandmother passed away when I was seven. dad passed away when I was eight, no losses really close together. And you know, my grandmother lived with us while she was sick as well. So, I saw that You know, I grew up you know, I grew up seeing sorrow, and it just was not dealt with, like an emotion would be, or should be, you know, handled with care. And really I think that’s really my message for today is grief is a feeling to be handled with tender, loving care. And I think if we can look at each other and society and see and understand that we’ve all lost something or someone we all grieve something or someone Look at someone as they’re passing by in the street or, you know, the cashier woman at the checkout line or, you know, maybe the delivery guy that’s kind of being a jerk, you know, we’ve all lost something or someone and to be able to look at someone with empathetic eyes and know, I’ve lost and I agree if something or someone to because grief unites us all, every single one of us, it doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t care, your ethnic background doesn’t care of your economic status. And if we can look at each other, like children with backpacks, full of rocks, is grief rocks these grief experiences that we’ve been putting into our backpacks all of our lives. If we could actually physically see those backpacks think we would look at each other a little differently. We’d probably treat each other a little differently to right. Some other grief experiences which I didn’t even cover earlier but like loss of health, I can be a big one. I mean really, it’s like if you’ve been healthy for most of your life and then all of a sudden you have this devastating diagnosis, whether it be terminal or just chronic. Or, you know, you lose in the, you know, a leg or an arm or you know, something where it, it’s a changing or changing your pattern of behavior, right? It’s going to change your entire life. You’re going to have a grief experience with that incarceration. separation from siblings or friends. Like kids in foster care, environmental or climate losses. You can, let’s say your house burns down, you lose everything. You know, your pictures, your losses, that’s again your loss of safety or loss of, you know, where do you go from there? It’s a big change, right? You can also lose hope. And after so many years of grief, I think I got to the point where I kind of had lost some hope. And, you know, I just got sick and tired Of being tired of feeling the way I was feeling. And yeah, it’s you. There’s just grief is just so much more than just about death. And then we see it on the news. So you see, see it in the newspaper, you see it on TV, the lady in the grocery store, sharing her grief stories. You know, she’s not saying it like that, but she’s talking about you know, maybe she lost her job or you know, but people don’t use the word grief, right, grieving, they tell you the story. They don’t tell you how they feel. Even though they really want you to know how they feel. You’re always going to resort back to the story and so it’s, it’s being a heart with ears and really listening and having an awareness of yourself as well; where you talk about the feelings instead of just, you know, being stuck on the story.
One of the things too that you know, because grief begins in childhood and, and in our youth. You know, we’re born with perfect harmony, intuition, intellect, and emotion like it’s perfectly in harmony. And, you know, by the age of three, we have learned 75% of the basic tools and concepts that we will use throughout our life. And there was a pediatrician who was interviewed was about grief, I can’t remember exactly, I think in the UK maybe. And he was asked: “When does the brightness leave their eyes?” You know, talking about children, and he said: “In middle school.” You know, and that’s 95% of our decision-making powers are established by the age of 15. So by the time we reach Middle School, we have already learned and received the tools and concepts that we will use for decision making. And that’s true when it comes to grief. Like how we are taught, the messages we receive, and how we deal with grief. We learned at a time we were age 15. So this is why it’s so important that we start talking about grief, like a feeling. We start talking about grief like we talk about the weather, and that we stop shying away from others’ pain and sorrow, that we start having some awareness around our own in the behaviors that we resort to, to avoid what is ours, what our feelings are. Because grief unites us all. In grief is not a noun. It’s a feeling.
So that is today’s episode, I feel like I have definitely shared the definition of grief that is more than just about death. Next week, I will be sharing how and why grief keeps us stuck. So I hope you tune in for that. Until next time, take care.
From my heart to yours, thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being a heart with yours. And, if you’re hurting, know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love, my friend.
The body always talks. Our bodies are our alarm system to something not being right. And, when experiencing grief, our bodies definitely talk to us. When we are feeling anxious or worried, our minds often swirl the same thought patterns over and over. In response, our bodies reply to those thought patterns. For every person, the symptoms will present differently, however, may be similar as well.
Common Physical Grief Symptoms
Since I started grief recovery work, there have been similarities in symptoms that clients have shared with me that were like my own. For example, when I had my “mid-life unraveling,” I was experiencing overall body aches, hair loss, weight loss, stomach/gut issues (often with bloat), fatigue, etc.. After going down numerous rabbit holes with my doctor, what came of all of that was that my body was “Epstein-Barr Reactive.” Meaning, the mono virus was reactivated in my body, however, blood work was showing that I did not have mono. Also, around those years, I ended up having three colon polyps removed.
Grief manifests in our bodies; no doubt about it. And, because most of us will not identify ourselves as grievers, we suffer from what we believe are “medical mysteries” with no explanation, and, begin to feel a little crazy in the process. Also, “traditional” doctors are not going to ask you about your emotional state, are they? They’re not going to ask you about your “loss history,” are they? So, the mind-body connection is rarely (if ever) made in a traditional doctor’s office, even though boat-loads of medical research point to how our minds and bodies are connected in amazing, brilliant ways.
The disconnect comes where our ego is. The disconnect comes from our inability to get out of our minds and into our hearts. And, there’s this assistance of resistance to that which is painful and traumatic. We simply don’t want to “re-live” or “re-hash” what we’ve experienced. I often hear this from those who are not ready to dig deep and work through the muck. And hey, that was me, too, for a very (very) long time. But, if you would be honest with yourself (as I wish I would have been years earlier), you would see that not “re-hashing” and sitting in the muck, is only keeping you stuck in various areas of your life, negatively impacting your health and relationships, and probably taking years off of your life.
That which we don’t acknowledge (or refuse to) festers like a sore that won’t heal. And, over time, we tend to pick at the scab. However, when we’ve picked just a bit too much and it starts to sting a bit; we retreat, pull back, and leave it well enough alone. Because picking away any more is just plain painful.
A Car Analogy
Over the past five years, I have learned a lot about how my body responds to stressors. I’ve learned what I need to feel recharged, not depleted, and balanced. It’s still something I am working towards because, kids, life, work, side -hustle all require mental, emotional, and physical energy. If we think of our bodies as a fuel tank, we start to think more about our bodies as the cars we drive. We take our cars in for oil changes, tune-up’s, balance the tires, keep the fluids filled, etc.. However, this same common sense care and maintenance goes out the window when we think about ourselves and self-care. We take better care of our autos than we do our one body that we don’t get a re-do with; we can’t trade our one body in for another newer, better-equipped model. Nope, one shot – one life.
So, just as we take great care in ensuring our automobile lasts for the long-haul, so too, we need to consider how we’re taking care of ourselves for the long-haul. What is your heart needing? What is your mind fighting your heart against today?
I recently heard a pretty probing question posed by the author Hal Elrod who wrote the book Miracle Morning on a podcast episode. He said: “Is my life a reflection of who I want to be or a reaction to those who I don’t want to upset?” I bring this question up because often it is our relationships with the living that often cause us the most grief. And, this grief manifests in our bodies. What we hold in, emotionally, will always come out in one of two ways; we either implode (health issues) or we explode (emotional outbursts/anger/relationship problems/etc.). If you answer that question and, you’re walking through life on eggshells; reacting to life and attempting to not upset anyone, what do you think that this doing to your heart? What do you think that is doing to you emotionally? It likely feels like an emotional rollercoaster, filled with highs, lows, and a lot of stressors in-between. And, we all know what stress does to us – mentally, emotionally, and physically, right?
Heart vs Mind
My body responds to stress with increased heart rate, negatively impacted sleep (even if I don’t realize it), dry mouth, burning sensation between my shoulder blades (where my tension goes), anxiousness, lack of concentration, an inability to focus, and gut symptoms. I know this now about myself. I didn’t understand this over five years ago. And, that is why I believe I was led to grief recovery and energy healing. My body knew exactly what I needed. My mind (ego), however, was the one holding me back, pulling the strings, and keeping me stuck.
Where are you feeling your emotions in your body? I encourage you to consider that grief may be the cause of your physical symptoms. Whether it be high blood pressure, an ulcer, body aches, fatigue, etc., consider that it may be grief. Reflect on the losses you’ve endured in your life that involve both the death of a loved one and the losses that don’t.
Have you lost trust in someone you deeply cared about?
Have you felt betrayed in your life?
Have you experienced financial ruin?
Lost your home in uncontrollable circumstances?
Suffered estrangement as a child (from a parent) or as an adult (in relationships)?
Has your life been a downward spiral of loss of health?
Are you a caregiver to someone who is terminally ill, cognitively declining, or is cognitively delayed?
Have you survived a physical attack or accident?
Have you had many accidents throughout your life, which often occur as a result of the cognitive consequences of grief (an inability to concentrate/focus)?
All of these situations (and many more) create grief in our lives that also manifest in our bodies. The body knows. And, our one body is always talking to us. I have become so attuned to this connection that I can often look at someone and, I know something is up. Both our body language, and our physical appearance tell a story without us having to say a word. We often wear our life stories like the clothes on our backs without us even realizing it. Kids are no different. The energy that surrounds us, and we take with us out into the world, tells the story.
Heal the story, and you begin to heal the body.
P.S. Do you have a child with a story that needs healing but you’re not sure how to help them? I am looking for 8 participants for an upcoming 4-week, online group program, Helping Children with Loss. We will meet on Zoom for one session per week for 4 weeks for approximately 2 1/2 hours, in the evening (day/time TBD and flexible). This is not a program for you, rather it is a program for you to learn tools and communication skills in how to help the child/children in your care work through and process loss. And, considering Covid-19 has touched every single one of us, there is no denying children need this, even if you think they’re doing just fine. Prior to Covid-19, has a loved one or a pet died? Maybe during Covid-19, a loved one died and they didn’t get to say goodbye? There is plenty of grief to go around these days and this program is prevention. I encourage you to consider it and get in touch with me via email to [email protected] The first group will be offered at a discount!
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. – C.S. Lewis
As I was looking for an image for this week’s blog post, this one “spoke” to me, and I knew it was the one to drive the message home. You see, grief isn’t just in the run-down parts of town or a part of the child with the torn and tattered clothing. A grieving child could be sitting alone, watching other kids play from afar as they sit alone, feeling excluded.
Grief can look like the child with the “cool” clothes, the beautiful home, and on the “right” side of the tracks. How you see this little girl in the image, surrounded by shambles, could be exactly how she feels on the inside while living, presumably, her “best” life.
Adults often fail to see the sadness behind a child’s eyes. Or, if they do, they turn away from it because they’re uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or what to do about it. Today, this post is for you. And, I’m going to draw out today’s message from my own life.
I grew up in a lower-class home. My dad worked at a cement plant, and mom worked as a dietary aid in a nursing home. Although we lived in a new house, it didn’t look like any of my friend’s homes. We had an unfinished basement, small bedrooms (one of which I shared with my older sister), and little furniture and furnishings. We had just enough of what we needed, no extra, and definitely no excess of anything. However, we had many happy times and memories. It didn’t matter to me that so and so had a bigger house (with air conditioning), newer cars, their own rooms, new clothes, or anything else I did not. But, I recognized it. Growing up, getting my ears pierced, a new dress, and often, a home-cooked meal, were a treat. And, when I got older, I realized how “cheaply” that new home had been built, with its drafty windows, cheap siding, and weak foundation.
Then, death (and trauma) walked into my life. And everything changed. My sense of security, safety, and trust was gone. These are all of the components that make a house a home. And I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel secure. And, my ability to trust people would create such a divide in my life between sadness and joy, that it would take me another 30+ years to repair.
All the while, I was the quiet one – unless I was crying. I became a people-pleaser. And, I learned that crying in front of others makes them uncomfortable or angry, so it’s best to cry alone. And, I did – a lot. I’d hide in the kitchen cupboard to cry. I’d fall asleep crying under my bed. I’d squeeze into the linen closet to be alone to cry. I was such a sad child, and I had no way to express it – to anyone. Nobody knew what to do with me. I was a misunderstood problem. I felt like this little girl, in the photo, feeling like I might as well had been in a house of shambles. The world around me felt like this.
My saving grace was my sister, one reliable friend, and that same friends’ mom – who always welcomed me into her home as if I was one of her own. In their home, I felt safe. And, in their home, I ate with a family.
Economic status, social class, and appearances can all be deceiving.
Grief does not always stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, it’s in the “underbelly” of nearly every home across America (and the world). It does not show up as one particular, specific way either.
If we were to look at each other as the grievers we all are, there would be a lot more compassion to go around in this world. If we were to look at the “problem child” as a griever, it would change how you interact with them, don’t you think? Anger is a mask for grief. Many children are wearing it, too—I happened to wear mine well into my 30’s. I was an angry teen, and I had every right to be angry. And shocker, angry children become angry adults. There was so much change in my life, in a short time, and I did not have a way to express what I was experiencing safely. I know, without a doubt in my mind, many other children grow up this way, too. The adults in our lives don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to offer support.
We venture into adulthood with the wounds of the past. These wounds trickle into every aspect of our lives. – Victoria V.
As an adult, do you…
have a hard time trusting people? Perhaps you were sexually abused as a child; your mom/dad abandoned you, or you grew up in the foster care system?
have a difficult time making decisions? Were you allowed to make your own choices growing up, or did everything you say or do aim to please others and keep others happy/keep the peace?
find yourself bouncing from one relationship to the next? Did you grow up with an example of how healthy relationships should look? Were you abused by an adult male as a child/teen/young adult or grow up without a dad? Or, if you’re male, did someone other than your biological mother raise you?
feel stuck in your life, know you’re not living to your full potential, and feel like life is on auto-pilot? What happened to you? What are the losses (related or unrelated to death) you’ve experienced throughout your life?
Recognizing grief in our children is prevention. Once grieving children become adults, there’s no way to know how grief will impact their lives. This blog post today is my plea to you to open your eyes and your mind that grief is society’s pandemic – always has been and forever will be. Unless we educate ourselves, and the adult caregivers/caretakers work on repairing their hurts.
Grief makes us feel like we don’t have choices in our lives. And we do. It took me so very long to learn this. So long, that I have grief around that knowledge. However, doing this work and making grief education my priority is how I’m channeling the emotional energy I have around that fact. Not to mention, utilizing the tools I’ve learned to process all that I cannot change in the past. So, today – I can live fully and wholeheartedly – unleashed.
How to Help a Grieving Child You Know
Go first. For a child to trust you and to feel comfortable opening up, you must share first. And, you must tell the emotional truth about yourself, too. Do not give promises you cannot keep, give replies that you don’t know as fact, and dismiss the fear the child shares.
Validate. Validate. Validate. By not criticizing, analyzing, or judging what the child shares, you are validating the feelings they share. When you do criticize, analyze, or judge, you’re sending the message that what they’re feeling is wrong, incorrect, or unimportant.
Think before you speak. Before you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t know how to answer, take some time to think, in advance, about the questions that may come up. When thinking about the situation the child is in (if you know), consider the questions, in advance, that may be asked, and how you would answer those questions. For example, going back to school, your child may be concerned their teacher will contract Covid-19 and die. So, they ask you if their teacher is going to get sick and die. How will you answer that? Likewise, they may be concerned they’ll bring Covid-19 home and give it to you, their parent/caretaker, and ask if you’re going to get sick and die? And all of the other questions that will come along with that scenario. And there are many. Whether you are a teacher, parent, foster parent, caregiver, babysitter, aunt, grandma/grandpa, etc., think about what is going on in the life of the child and get everyone that child interacts with, on the same page with how to reply to Covid-19 (or whatever the situation is). But, don’t forget about telling the emotional truth.
Listen with your heart. Often, the things that make children fearful or sad don’t make much sense to the adult brain. And, the feelings of the child don’t have to make sense to you. Step out of your head and into your heart when communicating with a child (whether they’re 4, 12, or 18). Instead, ask questions to understand rather than to respond. Try to figure out what the root of the fear, sadness, or anger is. Sometimes, it’s about the least obvious thing.
Help the child find choices. Grief robs us of the feeling of having choices. I felt, for many years, that my life was going to be one filled with sadness for the rest of my life. I didn’t feel empowered, I definitely didn’t feel supported, and this led to me struggling well into adulthood. In the scenario of Covid-19 (and potential of getting sick), where a concerned child questions you (the parent), you could share how you’re doing all the right things to prevent that. You don’t know how it will affect you, but thank them for loving you and being concerned and tell them you love them, too—expressing that you take care of yourself so you can take care of them – then demonstrating that if that’s what you share. Honestly, my kids are the reason I give two craps about exercising or taking care of myself. Few people actually love exercising. However, if our motivation isn’t relying on the scale, pants-size, and instead, is given a more significant meaning in our lives (like staying alive long enough to see your kids have kids), then nothing else will motivate us. I don’t want my kids to grow up without a mother, so I get my yearly skin checks. I get my 5-year colonoscopy, and I do my best to maintain a healthy weight. It’s not for me – it’s for them. Because when you know what it’s like to grow up without a parent, your perspective on life and parenting changes. And, my kids were also why I sought something to help me emotionally be a better parent for them, too. I want them to grow up knowing that no matter what life throws at them, they always, always, have choices.
The obvious, participate in thein-person (once restrictions are lifted) or online four-week group program, Helping Children with Loss.
What do you think? Does this blog post resonate with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or message me!
Do you have a grieving child under your roof and struggle to help them? Right now, I am preparing for the launch of the Helping Children with Loss online group program. I am looking for eight participants to be the first to experience this fantastic 4-week program with me at a discounted rate. I want to make sure all of the online kinks are worked out, gain some comfort with delivering the material and start sharing this program at the end of this month. We meet weekly, once a week, for four weeks and typically on a weekday evening. However, I am open to a Sunday evening, too, as I realize schedules can be crazy with school starting soon.
If you’re interested, email me at [email protected] or use the contact form and put “HCWL program inquiry” in the subject line. Eight slots are the max! Parents can take the program together; however, each parent will pay the reduced rate. Email or message for more details. And, share this with someone you know. Again, the Helping Children with Loss Program is PREVENTION. In our current times, there is plenty of grief going around. If you are a parent, teacher, administrator, foster parent, foster program, lead a head start program, etc., I hope you thoughtfully consider this program. I am looking to share this with those programs I aforementioned, where an entire staff of eight could become educated on this topic and utilize this for CEU’s.
Take note of all of the feeling words in the tree of grief. How many you’ve experienced throughout your life?
I imagine you’ve experienced all of them throughout your life.
Recently on social media, I had a request to address the feeling of sadness, which was prompted by the reader referencing the blog post, How to Own Your Feelings, which was published back in May (Mental Health Awareness Month).
I needed some inspiration for this week anyway, so it was perfect timing. That said, if you ever want to learn more about a particular aspect of grief, or want me to dig more deeply into a topic already covered, please don’t hesitate to share with me! I’m open to all requests!
Why do we feel sadness or any number of feelings shown here in the tree word cloud image?
The root of sadness is, you guessed it, grief.
There is no timeline for grief. Often, when we hear this, we may think in terms of the long-term. However, what about short-term grief as well? You don’t have to be a (nearly) life-long griever like myself to identify yourself as a griever. And, there is ZERO SHAME in identifying yourself as a griever. When your life patterns have changed due to Covid-19, lose a home in a fire or a job (or don’t get hired for the dream job) – there’s grief as a result.
I’ve mentioned this definition (or description) of grief given to us by The Grief Recovery Institute many, many times. However, I’ll repeat it if you’ve never come across this definition before.
Grief is anything we wish would be different, better, or more. And, it’s also the net result of the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations.
The words in the image fall under the umbrella of one word – GRIEF. In a nutshell, the root of all of these feelings is grief. And, when we start to look at all of these feelings as such, we can begin to apply new knowledge and tools to process them.
You may be thinking, “But, no one died; I’m not a griever.”
You do not have to experience the death of a loved one to experience grief. Go back and re-read that definition again.
You may feel hopeless, depressed, or anxious after being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes.
You may feel fear, stress, and anxiety about the future if, like many are this weekend, graduating from high school or are about to embark on a transition in life.
And, when you add in the fact that we are all in relationship with others, do you think that others may project their feelings onto us as well? Do you believe that we may struggle to have a relationship where we fully feel seen, heard, and not judged, criticized, or analyzed for the feelings we have?
All of this to say, this is why I am so passionate about education about grief. Relationships and lives depend on this education. That may sound dramatic; however, if I were to share some stats with you on child grief, as they relate to the A.C.E. Study, you’d be shocked. Or, the stats of addiction, homelessness, or broken homes – you would agree that grief is, and always has been, society’s pandemic.
We should all be concerned with grief because it is a social, economic, and health concern.
So, what do we do about this?
Acknowledge what we’re feeling to ourselves, so we can then tell the emotional truth to others.
Seek knowledge and tools on processing these feelings in ways that individually resonate.
Look at your belief system. What were you taught about these feelings? Did you learn that feeling sad was a bad thing? Or, that the only solution to depression is popping a pill? As a child who experienced trauma or loss, did you act out in anger and were applied the label as a “problem child?” We all know if we’re told something enough times, we start to believe it, right?
What behaviors are you participating in that is a way to distract yourself from these painful feelings? What behaviors do you want to change, so you can improve your life – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually?
We all grieve something or someone; therefore, we are all grievers. When we start to look at each other in this way, we see each other differently, too. We recognize that, as humans, we do have a lot in common, regardless of the boxes we check on various applications we fill out.
Grief does not discriminate. And, heart to heart, we shouldn’t either.
Thank you for the suggestion, dear reader. At the beginning of this post, I almost wrote on a similar (but different) topic. So, next week come back for the blog post The Mind-Body Connection. I’ll have a personal story to share with you.
Until then, look out with eyes of compassion. We’re all struggling with something.
P.S. Next week, I will be receiving training for The Grief Recovery Institute’s new program they’re rolling out online – Helping Children with Loss. It’s a 4-week/session, online GROUP program. I am so excited to get trained and offer this program online. As a grieving child and now grief specialist, I know the importance of addressing grief in children. This program is PREVENTION. This program is perfect for parents/caretakers of grieving children, Foster programs, School administration, Head Start Programs, Military families, etc.. These are a few of the ways I would love to spread this program. If this is something you feel your children or children in your care need, please get in touch via the Contact tab.
P.P.S. Check out this blog post previously referenced. Scroll down, and you’ll find a FREE Feelings Chart to download – no details required. 🙂
Grief isn’t just about death. I talk a lot about this, but it begs to be repeated.
A child (and adults alike) grieve moving, death of a pet, loss of friendships, death of loved ones, loss of trust, safety, or security.
During this pandemic, I’ve been thinking about the children who don’t have the best home life—the children who may feel isolated due to having their safe space (school) now taken away. For many kids, school is the one place for someone to come to their aid and be their advocate.
Here is an excerpt from this full [opinion] article in The Hill (which I fully agree with):
It is incumbent upon all of us, including courts, law enforcement, education, medical and mental health providers — and even neighbors who may come into contact with young children and families — to continue to be part of a public health approach to child safety during this pandemic. Child maltreatment occurs in all sectors of society, and even healthy families can be pushed to their limits because of severe economic stress and sudden round-the-clock caregiving. We each have a role to play to keep families strong and children safe during this crisis.
I can’t even imagine the child grief that exists now, throughout the world, and how it will impact all of these children the rest of their lives. As a grieving child-adult myself, I know the damage grief can cause when it becomes so much a part of you. However, I also see the tenacity and determination that can come from it as well. Everyone’s path is different, but there are so many influencing factors that will determine the path a child will take into adulthood.
Influencing Factors of Childhood Grief
I believe, what influences a child and their grief most, is the amount of inner-work their parent(s) or guardian(s) have worked through themselves, and their comfort level with grief in general. From personal experience, a relationship with someone important to me suffered for many, many years as I got older, as a result of not only my unprocessed grief but that, too, of those in charge of my care. Albeit, my mother, childcare provider, or teacher – none of which had received education in how to help a child process grief.
It wasn’t until the inner-work I did on my own, much later as an adult, where I felt an immense amount of compassion and understood, for the first time, the sacrifice we make in our lives to hold onto emotional pain. And, this is the work – to get to the root of our grief; pulling it out at the root, just as you would a weed in your garden. As you pull more and more weeds, you also discover even more weeds that need tending.
It is so important, as a parent or guardian, to tend to our weeds. We project our wounds, unintentionally, onto children. Similarly, anyone in a leadership role over children may do this. Hurt people hurt people – even children, and often, unintentionally; hence, the importance of the educational piece. When we have an awareness of what is helpful and supportive, then you will be better equipped to help the child in your care who is struggling.
When we use our feeling words and give voice to how we feel, rather than stuffing down, numbing out, ignoring, putting on a strong face, or even full-body armor (i.e., shielding ourselves from even the good stuff of life), our human spirit is nurtured. These emotions are no longer blocked, and we don’t hurt the people we care about most.
What We’re Taught & Pass Down Generations
Adults must be an example of how healthy emotional processing looks. If you don’t know how to do this, you resort to what you’ve been taught, which is likely all of the unhelpful and even hurtful things that have been passed down generations and that society reinforces, such as:
Don’t Feel Bad
Replace the Loss
It Just Takes Time
Grieve Alone (Grievers often isolate because of the hurtful and unhelpful things that are said to them and the comparison of losses.)
Be Strong (for yourself and others – saying: “You are so strong’ or, ‘You’re the strongest person I know” reinforces this message.)
A reason why I am so passionate about grief recovery (and the various programs offered) is that it’s an educational program, as much as it’s an action-based approach. For someone to create lasting, meaningful change, one must gain knowledge, gain awareness, change their attitudes, and understand and learn new behaviors. The Grief Recovery Method encompasses and incorporates all of these factors, thereby setting the foundation and groundwork for healing.
Often, people are afraid of healing. Children aren’t, though, they just don’t usually have the guidance to do so. How much time and how much life do you feel you have missed, things you could have done differently, ways your life could have been different, better, or more? That, my friend, is what grief is: anything we wish would have been different, better, or more. And, it’s the loss of hopes, dreams, expectations. Imagine if, as a child, you would have received the tools to help you navigate all the hardships in your life on the way to adulthood. Do you think you’d be in a different place, emotionally, than you are today? Do you think you would have, perhaps, dared to chase your dreams?
Grief has a price. And, we all pay it, because society has not educated itself on this topic. It’s no surprise to me that grief is a hot topic during this pandemic. And, perhaps that’s the gift of Covid-19 – it’s getting a conversation going about this other intangible (but yet palpable) thing that the entire world has always had in common (since the beginning of humankind).
The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.– William James
You may feel like a complete failure after reading this. I felt that after my grief education. It’s hard to swallow, knowing there is the potential of having done more harm than good. But, when your child has a broken arm, you don’t Google on how to fix it yourself, do you? No, you take your child to an expert. Similarly, when your child is grieving, you should seek the help of an expert – someone who knows how to navigate such things. A person can get along with a poorly healed arm, although, will likely have some aches and pains. But, when it comes to matters of the heart, it isn’t just their arm that suffers and quality of life, in grief, it’s life itself that suffers.
If you don’t know what to do, this post is about where to start. And, if you want to prepare your child for the grief that they are guaranteed to one day experience, I encourage you to reach out to work with me in digging into your own. Committing to going first is the hardest part. And, if you’re interested in going first, click HERE. Next week, I will complete my advanced grief recovery certification, where I will be able to provide grief recovery online. Does seven weeks to emotional freedom sound good to you? I only wish I would have found it decades ago; I cannot imagine the emotional suffering it would have spared me and how much more present (therefore, fulfilling), life would’ve been as well.