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Archive for April 4th, 2012

This was published last week but wanted folks to know that they could still take the poll.  Please let us know how we can help!

Jennifer 4/4/2012

 

 

I really appreciate the awards that I have won with this blog.  I’m grateful for the followers that stop by, read a post, and leave comments.

I started this post as a way to get me motivated for the last “leg” of graduate school.  You would think the dream of the a PhD would be enough, but, alas it isn’t.

So, I started writing and had a few followers… some family and friends that I am so thankful for… and it’s grown.  And I am so honored.

You all know that talking about end-of-life issues is a passion of mine.  I’ve never had more healing and life-altering experiences than those surrounding the death of people I love and the suffering, healing, and growth that has come from my unique grief journey for each death.

And I really care about helping others that are where I have been… a new professional in hospice and therapy, a grieving sibling, an all of a sudden caregiver, someone new to meditation, someone lost, someone needing to know that someone out there “gets” what’s going on in me…

So, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you need?  What do you want to see?

How can I help?

Please take a second and fill out this poll.

With gratitude, Jennifer

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From The Grieving Teen by, Helen Fitzgerald… advice for a grieving teen

“Have patience with your friends if they say foolish things intended to be helpful.  It is most unlikely that they would want to hurt you.  Given them the benefit of the doubt.” 

WOW, this is asking so much of anyone when they are grieving, let alone a teen.

I think about all of the clients I have heard be so angry at the words, “I know just how you feel”.  Or all the dumb things people say to grieving parents, without knowing the harm that they are causing…

But this is good advice for us all.  There are those people who are true friends who might not know the right thing to say, might never have had a loss, and let’s face it adolescents are just learning coping skills and trying out socialization skills.

If someone is a “got your back”, “be there on your darkest days” kind of friend, we need to remember that they are in pain when we are.  People who love us want to help us and sometimes are in so much pain for us that they want a quick fix for our suffering.

One thing we can do it talk to our kids at a very early age about being supportive of grieving friends.

We can tell them that if they think someone might hurt themselves to tell an adult.

We can teach them to say, “I’m sorry you hurt and I wish I could take the pain away, though I know I can’t.”

The most important lesson… teaching kids to be compassionate at an early age.  It’s much tougher to be need to be compassionate and have to learn the skill on the spot.

I know there are so many hard things that the bereft have to face, but one of the most crucial for their healing and others is to be able to be an advocate for their own grieving and let others know what they need and what they are feeling.  Help your child learn this life lesson early on and it will be something they never lose.

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Sylvia Boorstein

Sylvia Boorstein (Photo credit: On Being)

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just received an email from Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California.

http://www.thousandsofbuddhas.org/events-list/

Check here for the time and call in info for the 4/11 talk on “What Keeps Your Practice Alive”

Join in this conference call and hear from two amazing Dharma teachers.

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Using Literature to Facilitate Grief Discussion

I have a confession to make. When Jen first presented me with the wonderful opportunity to take over her blog I had planned on spending the week doing research to present scientific evidence of theories on working with grieving children. But that didn’t happen.

It started innocently enough, a friend and I had planned to see The Hunger Games in theaters on Saturday, and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie (because the book is always better than the movie in my opinion). That’s when it happened, I was hooked. I was drawn in by the action, the drama, and the main character, Katniss whose father died five years before the story begins. Before I knew it I spent every non-working hour reading the entire trilogy.

My weekend reading binge did provide me with a reminder of why I and so many other grieving children are drawn into books such as The Hunger Games. We are desperately searching for someone who can put into words the pain that we often can’t put into words.

The last time I stayed up all night reading a book was when the Harry Potter series was out. (aside from studying in college and I will admit that if I were to put half as much energy into my GPA as I did The Hunger Games or Harry Potter I would have a PHD and then some by now). Harry Potter, who is also known as “the boy who lived,” lost both of his parents when he was a baby and subsequently experienced the loss of many loved ones throughout the series.

I remember being in the fifth grade and reading the first book in the Harry Potter series. My father had died two years earlier. I was young, lonely, and scared, but after reading about Harry’s experiences navigating through the world as a grieving child I felt, for the first time in my life, that I could be normal.

The idea of using fictional characters in literature as a guide for children’s group activities has been well studied. If you’re interested in a program Kathryn and Marc Markell wrote a wonderful book called “The Children Who Lived,” which gives activities for using themes found not only in the Harry Potter books but also in other popular fiction works. You can find a link to purchase the book here:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Children-Who-Lived-Adolescents/dp/0415957656

What my weekend reading binge reminded me most of all is that pop culture is ever changing and grief is being found in more and more places. Though Disney movies have often featured characters who have lost a parent, it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve these characters actually grieving on screen. We’ve also seen an increase in grief being addressed in literature as well.
This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to help children express themselves to us through these characters. For example, I found myself particularly drawn to the main character in The Hunger Games because I saw a lot of my own struggles in what the author was presenting to me.
I think back to myself in fifth grade again, my father had died two years ago and I was from the “don’t talk about it and it doesn’t exist,” type of household. And then I read Harry Potter, and I was transported to a world where grief was accepted, and encouraged.
It doesn’t take a group activity to discuss this with grieving children, just asking the child what feelings they have in common with the characters, or don’t have in common can open up a conversation about what the child is experiencing and help them feel less alone in the grief process.
-Liz Hendrickson

PS, On our Blog Talk Radio Show, I discussed an article from Alan Wolfelt on diagnosising grieving kids with ADHD and my Pinterest board… here are the links:

The AW piece:
http://www.childlife.org/conference09/data/papers/001.pdf

My Pinterest:

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Death takes on many images in the lives of children -- Voldemort from Harry Potter

Here is a copy of the developmental understanding of children’s grief that Liz and I talked about on yesterday’s Blog Talk Radio Show on Supporting Grieving Children.

How Children Grieve at Different Developmental ages

If you ever get the opportunity, look at the artwork of a grieving child and these theories of developmental differences become crystal clear.

You’ll see a younger child draw pictures of a tombstone or a casket and a funeral procession.  They may have an old-fashioned casket and have RIP on it.  They may have never seen one in person, but they have in the cartoons.

Younger children will also think of death like a cartoon might depict it (or a soap opera… ) life isn’t final.  The coyote comes back and again and again (just like Marlana on Days of Our Lives).  So when you hear a child say that grandma died but she’s going to bring him an Xbox for Christmas, it isn’t that unusual.

A child in middle school starts to see death as something personified… Look at Voldemort (of he whose name shall not be mentioned). Kids at this age will draw pictures of the Boogey man or the Grim Reaper… even look at the images in the allegory in the Harry Potter Books — is it the last one, where they talk about the brothers with the cape who try to out smart Death.

Death looks like the Boogey Man or the Grim Reaper.  (Forgive me, I haven’t read the book again for a while and well, I’m old… I don’t remember things like this well so if I am wrong, I am sure you know what part of the story I am talking about).

And kids grow continue to grow.  They might be really in to music or poetry.  They might be in to art.  At this age, kids can think symbolically (high school and older) and depictions of death become metaphors. . . the cloudy skies, the angels, rays of light from the heavens, a tree of life, etc.  They have more language and more ability to deal in abstractions.

Why is this important?  Because we need to meet kids and teens where they are at.  We can’t assume that one idea, one way of speaking will suffice within one family.

I think about my own family.  My landlady, who we called Grandma, died when I was in first grade maybe.  I loved her.  She lived upstairs.  I got to play with her jewelry and sit on the porch up there and watch out over the whole street.  I missed her terribly.

For my brother, who was eight years older, she was everything.  She was like a magical wise woman who loved him unconditionally and was there for him all the time.  He, despite being in high school, helped take care of her and was truly lost when she died.

Eight years can do a lot of things and a wise person will understand that while they are supporting grieving kids.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if a loss occurs at a young age, say 6, a child’s understanding of that loss will mature as they do.  They will revisit the loss time and time again but always from a different vantage point.

So, at 16, when I lost my grandfather, I lost one set of roles, one set of ideas.  When I turned 18 and was graduating I lost new things and grieved because I know how proud he would have been of me.

When my brother died 17 years ago, I grieved.  My family started to dissolve with the loss of my grandfather and now Mike was gone too.  Would my grandfather have been able to stand by us and love him while Mike was dying.  That brought up great pain for me because there were some in the family that could not.

As I get closer to my dissertation, (well into my adult years), I have to say, I wish it was my grandfather that was still around, there to see me get my PhD.  And yet I know without my experience of loss for him, I would not be here today wanting to make a difference in the lives of others who are grieving.

So, it’s important to remember that grief isn’t processed as a straight line — no once through and wheeeewww, you are done.  It is more like the T.S. Eliot poem that talks about coming to the same place again and again but each time, from a different point of view.

I hope that this list helps you, whether you’re a grieving parent, a teacher, a counselor, a teen.

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Don’t lie to me

I can think of no better truth than this!

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Check out this podcast! As always, outstanding and brilliant!

Alzheimer's Speaks Blog

Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio –

Steve’s Journey with Dementia & Alan Arnette on Awareness

This is a great program with Steve Ponath who shares his personal journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

Today we talked to Steve Ponath, a man recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Steve will turn 50 years old this September.  He has had memory problems for about 2 and a half years but never really thought much about them until October of 2010. Then he started making the same mistakes frequently.and everything changed… Listen to his story as he shares tips with us as to how we can help someone with dementia by adjusting how we do things.

You can reach Steve on Facebook.  He goes by pony5alive

 

Alan Arnette, Mountaineer, Advocate and Speaker joins us for the 2nd half of the show to update us on his expeditions for Alzheimer’s and his speaking tour to…

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