Children and Grief: The effects still linger

Today is my brothers birthday. He would have been 58. Who would have thought 34 years later, it would still bring me to tears.
Robbie died when I was only 7. He was the first in a long line of such experiences in my life. “They” (Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counsellors etc.) tell me that this was probably where my anxiety issues and depression episodes stem from.

When you are 7, you are starting to get a grasp on the finality of death. This is a headspace no kid should be in. I thought I could wish it away and if I could made a deal with God that he’d reverse his decision. I also took on the assumption of guilt having made a wish in the past to take away pain from someone and moving it on to another person – was that pain transferred to Robbie upon my request?

There was a significant change and impact on my world. Everything as I knew it had changed. I had never seen my mother or father cry. I had never felt these overwhelming  and intense emotions – panic, fear, emptiness, confusion, desperation. And there was that never ending question of why? I was to be separated for eternity from someone I love, how do you comprehend this? I still struggle with the concept even though I know the world to be transient and believe it is only the physical presence that is lost.

We strive as parents to give our children a safe and secure environment with the intention of instilling a confident, self assured and assertive personality. In one fell swoop death can take this away if we don’t take charge. In my case, I internalised all my thoughts and questions. I didn’t want to hurt my parents by bringing up something so painful, so I stayed away from the topic when I needed to speak. I created my own misconceptions and theories about death, which did not necessarily arm me well for the onslaught of loss that was to follow. In short, I didn’t make it easy for my family to help me through and didn’t deal with it well at all.

What would I do to help that 7 year old if I could go back? I think I would focus on three main areas:

  1. encouraging talk and questions
  2. creating keepsakes and constructing memories
  3. reminiscing and checking in over time

What do I do to help the 41 year old who still crumbles whenever death is experienced by a close friend? Well, today I could focus on the horrific way he died, the years we’ve lost or just how bloody unfair life can be…. BUT I choose to focus on the gratitude I feel for having known him and how lucky I was to have spent 7 wonderful years with my loving, doting brother.

I have a number of friends struggling with their grief at this moment in time. Please share with us your coping strategies and how you help your children through. 

Good night my brother, you are forever in my heart. Rest in Peace.

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