Conversations in Grief Blog: Grieving Underfoot
I recently came across a short film on YouTube by Liv McNeil entitled “Numb”. In the film, she portrays the very real experience of living as a teenager during the COVID-19 pandemic. A very full life of achievements, activities, friends, and all teen life brings reduced to four walls and a laptop.
As the mother of school-aged children, I can personally attest to the very real struggles our children are facing. The ongoing losses, as months pass by with little change, have taken a toll on even the youngest among us. I am asked daily by my four-year-old, “Are the sick people better?” He, like all of us, is asking, is it over yet?
When shelter in place began this past March, it took two weeks for my children to really begin to show the effect it was having on them. I took a photo of my eldest daughter, with her laptop on her knees, miserable while doing school work. She desperately missed her friends and the normal rhythms of a school day. Those familiar rhythms of life outside our home and yard where new and exciting things can happen. When life is reduced to the minimum, the lack of opportunities and new experiences wears on our children and they may begin to grieve those losses.
Grief in children may look like a happy kid at breakfast and a tearful one at bedtime. Children may become moody, short-fused, and take even the smallest infraction as life-shattering. They might withdraw and isolate or become clingy and develop separation anxiety. A child may lose interest in favorite activities or delay any signs of grief for months. A grieving child may worry about getting sick, about dying, and about life never being normal again.
If we are grieving over significant loss how can we support our grieving children? We do this by taking care of ourselves first. When we fly, we are given instructions that if there is an emergency and oxygen masks are necessary, we should place them on ourselves first before helping others. If we lose consciousness from lack of oxygen, we can’t help anyone. The same is often true for supporting our children through grief while we are grieving. Practicing good self-care for ourselves first provides the strength we need to support ourselves and those in our care. We can further support our children by encouraging conversations around the loss to take place, by acknowledging that this is incredibly difficult and providing loving support as best as we can.
COVID-19 has forced us to let go of so much and our children are not immune to those losses. As we prepare for school to start many kids will once again be aching for friends, extracurricular activities, and shiny new backpacks. So many things that are on hold for the foreseeable future. We can support them through the difficulties if we are intentional to be kind to ourselves and to acknowledge, that while temporary, the losses for our children and ourselves are real and it’s okay to grieve over them.