Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, if children are old enough to love, they are old enough to grieve. Many times in our society children are the forgotten grievers. For instance, when a parent dies, whom do we expect to help the child with their grief? The surviving parent. That parent not only has their own grief to deal with but they are learning for the first time how to be a single parent. They, like their child, can use support in their grieving. Children don’t grieve the way we do. They don’t openly talk about how they are feeling. A death in their life usually causes them to feel even more different than usual. Kids feel different enough – a death causes them to feel even more different and isolated. Bereavement groups are extremely helpful for children since they are with other children who have experienced a loss also.
The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
This first stage of grieving helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.
These feelings are important; they are the psyche’s protective mechanisms. Letting in all the feelings associated with loss at once would be overwhelming emotionally. We can’t believe what has happened because we actually can’t believe what has happened. To fully believe at this stage would be too much.
Grief is the internal part of loss, how we feel. The internal work of grief is a process, a journey. It does not end on a certain day or date. It is as individual as each of us. Grief is real because loss is real. Each grief has its own imprint, as distinctive and as unique as the person we lost. The pain of loss is so intense, so heartbreaking, because in loving we deeply connect with another human being, and grief is the reflection of the connection that has been lost.