These last few weeks there has been a lot of tragic deaths… no-one that I knew personally but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me! I’m sure each of you have been affected by a death recently or in the past, this blog is about how we, as humans pick up and keep going…. and help our children to understand it is part of normal life.
Here are some of the sad things that have been on my mind in these last few weeks; there has been the suicide of a beautiful young woman in Skerries, where I live; the Manchester bombing where innocent children and adults lost their lives and many are critically injured; there has been a 7 month old infant who died from being left in a car on a hot day; most recently a young fisherman drowned in the prime of his life, also in Skerries; and for me personally one of my old friends’ brother died tragically last week. I’m sure each and every one of us have our own stories of sadness and grief… we can end up consumed by them. The details and the heartache, reading articles, talking about it, going over and over it in our heads. It’s called a rumination when we become obsessed with something that has happened and we can’t let it go, going into the possibilities or the details from different perspectives.
Yes death is all around us.. it seems that some times are worse than others. But at times, it can be hard to stay positive, to not to let your thoughts drift to the suffering and sadness that death brings. We seem to forget that life is temporary, none of us are here forever and the only guarantee we have is that ‘we will all die’ (That’s what the priest at a the recent funeral I went to reminded us, we were all a little shocked but it’s true) So what do we do about it and how do we deal with all this sadness personally and in relation to our children?
There is one thing I know for sure, thinking about these things over and over does not help anyone. The only positive thing we can do is to catch ourselves, be aware of our thoughts and bring our mind to a better place… perhaps a good memory we have of the person, but we can also ask ourselves ‘How can I help?’ Over 7 years ago one of my best friends lost her brother in a tragic accident, I knew him well, since early childhood, and I couldn’t stop thinking of him and the entire family and getting myself upset. I decided to try help them out instead of wallowing, I made a big Shepard’s pie, the biggest dish I could find, with as many carrots and peas as I could fit in, I thought if any of them are able to eat, then at least they’ll get some nutrition! I dropped it to the house, it wasn’t much but I’d busied myself with something practical! Later, I bought lovely hardback bound notebook and I decided to try get everyone who knew him to write something in the notebook and this could be given to his infant son when he grows up. (This didn’t quite work out as it was too early, emotions were too raw, but I might try again!) Now these are tiny things, some people do much more amazing things, there are many people who have changed lives by setting up charities, writing books that help others, fundraising and bringing awareness to the general public. Even if it is a phone call or meeting someone for a chat… we can all do something to help, to reach out to get through it together.
We must breed it into our children that the only way is to keep going, when bad things happen we must learn how to bounce back and say ‘life goes on’, there is no time frame, we can’t know how long the grieving process will take. But one thing is for sure, we will all lose people in our lives and our children will too. We need to equip them with the skills and resilience to make sure they know that they can handle it. A teenage boy I was working with recently who lost his mother a few years ago, told me that he realized after her death, how close his extended family were, how good they were to him, and how much he was loved and supported by all of them. Another 15 year old boy, who almost lost his mother, she was in hospital for 5 months after a brain aneurysm, told me the lesson he has learned is ‘not to take anyone for granted’. Our children learn amazingly well. So I’ve started to talk to my children more about these sad stories and deaths, I tell them some factual details and I teach them to empathize. I don’t want them worrying and fretting about death, but I need them to know that it is part of life, I would prefer to have a frank conversation with them, then them hearing dramatized versions from the school yard. (I’m referring here to my 6 and 8 Year old girls).
The lessons we can learn from death and tragedy
- From Tragedy good things can come…. coming together of a community, setting up a charity to help others, or writing a book, making the public aware of something, fundraising worthwhile causes, making a difference in someones life.
- If we can focus on our gratitude for what we have in our lives, it changes how we think. Instead of telling everyone the ‘pity me’ stories, it turns into the ‘I’m so lucky and grateful’ stories.
- Humans caring for others helps us through the most stressful periods of our lives. When we care for others it reduces the effects of stress. Click here for Kelly McGonagals TED talk on how to make stress your friend. (I’ve just noticed it has been viewed over 13 million times on you tube!)
- Children – we should talk to them about how we are feeling and let them in on the sadness and hurt in the world. They need to know that we don’t all live for ever and life is constantly changing. We need to build their resilience early on for their future life. Life can be hard, bad things happen but we can teach them to say to themselves ‘whatever happens I’ll handle it’ , the same goes for us adults – believe that we can handle whatever is thrown at us, even when our world falls apart, we will get through it, we will keep fighting, we are not alone and should never be afraid to ask for help.
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