I Was Thinking....
Loss is an interesting beast and our kids all struggle with it! Such an important concept for ALL of us to consider as we parent children with real and unresolved loss and grief experiences. A family we are close to is moving this weekend. A couple of their kids are very close to mine...in age and through close friendship. I am specifically watching my two youngest manage this huge transition. Of my two, one is bio and one is adopted.
While my youngest daughter, who is adopted, would not be able to talk about her grief and loss with you yet, it is quite deeply rooted in who she is. It impacts how she does relationships...making new ones, maintaining them and the possibility of losing them. On the outside, you would never know that her friend is leaving. She lets me see snippets of her feelings about it, but they are so quick they are easily missed. And once they have passed there is no more dealing with it.
On the other hand, my youngest son, who is biological, has not suffered a lot of loss and especially not the most painful grief of losing his primary attachment figure! He is very open about the pain of all of this new change. He is able to be sad and vulnerable and to take the time to sort through his feelings. And does it often and for as long as it takes.
I have to tell you it is hard to watch your children grieve. To know that they are in pain is difficult. But it sure looks different on a survivor! My son's grief is familiar to me. I know what to say and do. I know how to guide him. He comes to me with his grief, lets me see it, lets me help. He lets his friend know how he feels and that he will miss him. His friend can't be confused about how valuable he is to him. I have heard them talking about it and about how they will cope. Making future plans together...the friendship is not over!
On the other hand, my daughters grief is foreign to me. As a matter of fact, I believe in an effort to not open that wound within herself she rarely allows herself to feel anything that gets near the grief of loss. We work on this all of the time, but it is a part of her core that is very protected! She hasn't talked to her friend about her feelings at all, doesn't even look like she remembers it is happening. She hasn't made plans with her about how they will cope. I would understand if her friend wonders if she even cares that they are moving. This is all very foreign to me and it takes very intentional parenting from me in order to help her with it. I bring up the subject all of the time, getting her to think about her feelings...just nudge it a bit. I understand she is very preoccupied trying to survive this - she is especially out of it these days. Slow processing, forgetful, absent-minded and irritable. I continue to engage the other mom (in front of the girls) about plans to get together, text, meet half way and so on. I am hoping to be the bridge. When the two girls are together in my presence, I put the words there that I know my daughter would say if she could. Like boy ______ is really going to miss you _________. You are a great friend. Good friends don't stop being friends because they move. etc... I will teach my daughter how to have a friendship from a distance. She is very black and white about relationships and loss. I will have to give her those tools. She will be okay and some of her fears about the world will be healed as we go through this process and she learns that just because people go away doesn't mean you are unworthy of good!
As Intentional Parents, the whole idea of No Matter What and for as LONG as it takes is SO crucial! If you looked at what my daughter presents, you would think she is just fine with all of this. If you look past the behavior for just a moment, the overwhelming sadness that you would find is huge. This is where doing it differently and meeting her where she is at comes into play. I am her Safety Net; that means I need to see and care for ALL of her even and especially when she doesn't ask. Even when it is hard and seems like I am swimming up stream! This is where healing happens!
From one parent to another...I challenge you to realize the grief your child carries with them. It is at their core; they have suffered the ultimate loss - the loss of that most important first attachment figure. It is not always grief about the physical person, but it IS many times about the loss of feeling worthy, special or good enough. Meet them there and you will have great impact on healing their hear and all of their future relationships!