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Read This Till You Believe It
by M.H. Clark, Compendium, 2016.
Years ago when I was in college and first studying social work, I read a small book about counseling that offered an insight that continues to guide me today. When trying to help a person, there is a need for both support and challenge. Support without challenge--encouragement to persist, try something new, or think a new thought--can leave a person stuck in the painful situation they are in that is not working for them. Challenge without support can feel abusive as we need to be and feel understood and have our experience validated as supportive validation is often the first step toward a more healing place.
M.H. Clark, author of Read This Till You Believe It, knows the wisdom and necessity for both support and challenge. In this very short book--will take only minutes to read--there is recognition of pain and grief and there is also recognition of what remains and is possible. Just a few words on each page with evocative abstract illustrations--mostly blacks, grays, dark blue and off-white. It begins with validation and ends with low-key affirmation and hope. The messages of affirmation and hope don’t feel cheap or easy. They exist in a world of real pain and grief for which permission is given. Permission is also offered for steps toward healing, and grieving people have the need to experience both permissions--to hurt and to heal.
Read This Till You Believe It is the kind of book that improves with multiple readings. The more I read it, the more meaningful it felt. While it can be read in only a few minutes, a reader could also take longer and linger over the ideas and pictures. Everything expressed deserves to be believed by grieving, hurting people although many concepts will meet resistance. To be expected, really, as suffering is a dark and desolate place where we need reminding that we and life are enough to survive and live more fully. Reminders are needed and it’s these types of reminders that are provided. If you’re not sure, read it again, and then maybe some more.
A Clinic for Children and Their Families Coping with Chronic/Life-Threatening Illness or Loss
The experience of a life-threatening illness or death of a family member can be emotionally disruptive to a child's development, as well as to the child's entire family. Frequently, children experiencing problems in adjusting to loss or serious illness may demonstrate difficulties including increased sadness and anxiety, withdrawal from friends, decreased school achievement or medical nonadherence. The Medical Crisis and Loss Clinic was developed to assist children and families in coping with loss and change. It is a short-term intervention focused on improving long-term adjustment.
The clinic is intended for parents whose child has died, or children and adolescents who:
The clinic is not intended for children whose primary problem is physical or sexual abuse, parental divorce, longstanding emotional problems or violent behavior.
The clinic is flexible in its approach. An appointment can be made for an individual's child, parents or family.
The initial visit is focused on understanding the issues facing the child and family. Subsequent visits may vary from a one-time consultation, such as parents requesting advice on how to talk with siblings, to several sessions, such as adapting to changes that accompany loss or chronic illness. Parents may wish to re-consult the clinic staff at a later point in time.
To arrange an appointment, please call 501-364-1830, request "intake" and then specifically request an appointment for the "Medical Crisis and Loss Clinic."
When children are upset or stressed, parents want to say things to help them feel better. There are times, however, when there are no good words to make the hurt feelings go away. One of these times is when a child experiences the death of a family member or friend. This can be a very difficult time, especially if the parent is also grieving the loss.
Grief is what a person feels when someone or something is lost. Children need help to understand what has happened and to express their feelings of grief. This expression of grief is called mourning. Children feel grief on their own, but they need help finding ways to mourn. There are no magic words to say, but there is much a parent can do to help a child cope with the death of a loved one.
Explaining death to a child should be done with care so that the child is not confused or unnecessarily frightened. A young child may not be able to understand the difference between "gone to heaven" and "gone out of town"-the child may be waiting for the person to return. A family's religious faith can be a great source of strength, but it should be related to a child in a way that he or she can understand. Some religious concepts (for instance, the Christian concept of resurrection) may too abstract to comfort a young child. Likewise, care should be taken when comparing death to familiar events in life. Comparing death to sleep, for instance, can cause a child to fear going to sleep.
Children need honesty about what has happened to help them understand and accept the reality of death. A parent or other caregiver needs to explain what happened to the person who died in a way that the child can understand. It is not necessary to give all the details, and the age and maturity of the child need to be considered. A death due to violence may be especially difficult to explain. A child may hear comments about the death from others and have questions about what really happened. Honesty helps a child understand that it's okay to talk about what happened and helps a child to cope with death. Dealing with what we know can be much easier than dealing with what we don't know.
Many parents question whether or not children should attend funerals. Funerals help many people to accept the reality of a death and to honor the life of the one who has died. Funerals are also occasions where people mourn together. Attending a funeral or visiting the funeral home can also be helpful to children. Here are some points to consider:
Parents can help a grieving child by finding ways that the child can remember and feel connected to the person who died. This help is especially important when a death is sudden and unexpected. In these situations, a child has not had opportunities to prepare for the death and to find a way to say goodbye. If possible, the child should be given something that belonged to the person who died. Such a "memory object" affirms the child's relationship with the one who has died. Sharing memories and stories of times past helps a child continue to feel connected to the person who has died. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries after a death can be sad days, but they are good times to help a child remember the person who is no longer present.
Setting an example of how to cope with grief is perhaps the most important task a parent or caregiver faces in helping a child deal with death. Being open to the grief of children can be difficult if parents are feeling overwhelmed with their own grief. Adults need to find resources for their own support and mourning so they can help their children. When communication is open, questions can be asked and needs expressed.
When someone dies, there are no words to make the hurt go away. Parents help their children most by being honest, listening, caring, sharing and giving permission for the whole family to grieve and mourn. Through this experience, a child can learn that even the most difficult times can be faced together. It is a lesson that goes beyond words.
Lessons from Lions is a unique user-friendly resource to help children better understand and discuss coping with grief. Lessons from Lions is based on a popular children’s movie and is especially appropriate for school classrooms and children's grief support groups.
The spring is a full season with many opportunities such as support groups, professional education online and in person, suicide awareness events, and remembering infant loss.
Fall Groups will be provided in-person, if possible. If in-person groups are not possible due to safety concerns, grief support will be provided online—details to come.
Good Mourning Grief Support Groups are for any child or teen, ages Kindergarten through high school, who have experienced the death of a family member or friend. There are also support groups available for the adults in the family. There is no charge for the program, but a completed application is required for each child or teen. For fall 2020, the Parent Orientation will be Tuesday, September 22, at 6:00 p.m. and all groups begin Tuesday, September 29, at 6:00 p.m. Apply online. For more information call 501-364-7000.
Alliance for Grief and Loss in-person meetings are suspended at this time. The Alliance for Grief and Loss is an informal coalition of helping professionals interested in grief and loss issues. All meetings are at Arkansas Children's Hospital Professional Building 1 (formerly East Campus) unless otherwise noted, have a program related to grief and loss, and are brown-bag lunch meeting beginning at 11:30 am. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to be added to the email mailing list for the Alliance for Grief and Loss. All are welcome.