Friday, November 17, 2006

Be Honest With Your Grieving Children

my little fallen angel
Originally uploaded by childish_david.

You may wonder how much to say to your children about the loss of their sibling, parent, relative, or friend. Of course, you have to gauge it to their ages and attention spans, but with this in mind, we encourage you to be honest and open with your children.

"As parents you want to protect them; you want to make it right for them, and yet you don't know that what you're doing is actually not hurting them," says Dora. "When we first got back from the hospital after their sister died, we were at a loss for words, and we probably did all the wrong things. They wanted to know how she died, and my husband said, "Well, she fell asleep; it's just like falling asleep, only she just didn't wake up. It was very comfortable." Neither one of my girls could sleep after that for months because they were afraid they were going to die. Their comprehension is so limited at that age."

God understands that you do not know what to say. He will enable you. Be truthful, yet compassionate with your children, and pray continually for His guidance. Encourage the children to ask you questions, and keep the lines of communication open at all times. Also, seek help from experienced parents or a counselor for advice on how to explain such things to children.

"Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5)

Holy God, open my mouth to honestly talk and share with my children. Help me to be available and approachable to them. Amen.

From "Through A Season of Grief" by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard

Friday, November 03, 2006

On Losing a Father

A father will always be his daughter's first love. The man by whom all others will be measured against. One of the defining moments of my adolescence was when I lost my dad at the age of 16. His loss came at a crucial time in my development and left me with wounds so deep it took me the next 20 or so years of my life trying to heal them. It is always very difficult for a parent to lose a child. When a parent dies, a part of your past is gone forever.

Dad's death came so suddenly, literally like the proverbial "thief in the night" that many poets have used to describe death. I was 16, my younger brother was ten and dad was 49 - gone from a massive heart attack, his first, at the peak of his career. Dad died young when I think about it now. Yesterday, at the cementery, staring at his grave marker, I was hit with a realization - I couldn't help but mutter aloud, "Ang bata pa nga ni daddy namatay." (Daddy died so young!) 49 is just seven years from where I am now when I think about it.

Whenever a child loses a parent before the age of 18, he/she carries the memory of the loss way into adulthood and it is something that he/she processes with every milestone attained. Children's grief specialist, William Worden in his book " Children and Grief: When A Parent Dies" writes about the 10 signs warning signs to look out for in a child who grieves. The problem here lies when the signs last for a very long time and seem to increase in intensity with the passage of time:

1. Persistent difficulty talking about the deceased person, especially a parent;

2. Uncharacteristic aggressive behavior;

3. Anxiety about the safety of others, especially a surviving parent - normally, this decreases during the first year after the death;

4. Physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, etc. or the worsening of a previous physical condition - of course, in this last case, medical attention is called for;

5. Sleeping difficulties such as persistent nightmares and/or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep;

6. Changes in eating habits such as overeating, not eating properly, or signs of anorexia or bulimia;

7. Social withdrawal;

8. Difficulties in school, either socially or academically;

9. Persistent self-blame or guilt; and

10. Self-destructive behavior or a desire to die - a warning sign that adults should take seriously and act upon immediately!
One of most helpful ways I personally found in working out the grief over my father's death was through writing. Putting my feelings on paper has always been cathartic for me. I recently came across two blog entries by two popular and well-read artists - one is Butch Dalisay's One For My Father. Butch is a multi-awarded writer and author and his personal recollection of his dad's death left a major lump in my throat. Another piece was written by multi-awarded composer, artist and life-coach Jim Paredes' How Would We Find Each Other In Heaven. Jim's piece is insightful and wistful and explains the concept of "father-hunger" that is prevalent among children who lose their father very early on in life. Their writings struck a major chord in my heart, making me remember my own dad and reflect once more on how his early loss impacted the ways by which I eventually navigated the emotional terrain of my own life. Dad's been gone for 25 years now and yet, like Butch and Jim, his memory will always remain in my heart brief though the time we may have spent together.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Poem to Remember Loved Ones By

Migi_Christmas 1997

A typhoon passes through the city today and we find ourselves awash with grey and dreary skies. Not exactly the best weather to find oneself in a few days before the nation commemorates the day when we remember loved ones now gone. All Soul's Day (November 1) is fast approaching and in the Philippines, everyone who has lost a loved one stops to pay respect to the one who has gone ahead, back to their REAL HOME.

Allow me for a moment to remember my son Migi who returned to our Heavenly Father eight years ago. Serendipitously, while searching for some files on my computer today, I came across this beautiful poem that spoke to my heart. I believe that God lead me to this poem so that I might be able to share it with all of you who have lost loved ones too. In spite of the gloomy weather, it brought a smile to my day and I have found comfort in it, I pray that as you read this you do too...

An Irish Funeral Prayer

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

Source: derived from a sermon written by Henry Scott Holland and delivered in St. Paul's (London) on 15 May 1910, at which time the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster. Although not originally derived from Irish writings, versions of this sermon have been used at many Irish and Catholic funerals over the years.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Helping Your Child Deal With Loss

Originally uploaded by Cubbie1.

My daughter and I lost two very special people in our lives at crucial points in our childhood.

When I was 16 years old, my father died from a massive heart attack at the age of 49. We weren't able to say good-bye to him. I remember the day as if it took place only yesterday. Some memories stay with you for the rest of your life. P was 7 when her younger brother Migi died. He was four and they were as tight as tight could be. She wasn't able to bid him good-bye either. Worse, because of strict hospital policies, she was not even able to see him in the hospital. Whether that was in the end a good thing or not, I will never know. It's something I grapple with to this day.

What do you tell a child when a loved one is gone and how do you best say it? Children go through grief that can be called "cyclical". Meaning, it repeats itself through various stages in the child's development. The adult who is tasked with breaking the difficult news si often in a major quandary as to what to say and how to go about it. Here are some guidelines that may help you help you r child deal with loss.

First, Consider the child's age and his/her ability to understand the situation. A child of five will naturally have a very different perception of the situation versus a child of eight. Find out first what the child knows and try to speak to him or her by using terminology that he/she can understand.

Second, Never use euphemisms. Use precise terms when talking about death. Try to explain that being dead means that the body has stopped working and that it cannot be fixed. That it no longer feels cold or gets hungry. The good side of this is that a dead body doesn't feel any more hurt or pain.

Third, If the child asks whether you will die, respond that everybody dies someday but that you hope to live yet for a longer period of time and do things with the rest of the family for a long time.

Fourth, Children cannot tolerate long periods of sadness and they may want to play and go back to their usual activities. Allow them to do so. This does not mean that they did not love the person who has gone on or that they are being disrespectful. Give your child permission, in fact, encourage them, to indulge in the activities that they love. Play is an essential part of a child's healing process.

Fifth, Expect changes in the child's behavior or patterns and be sensitive to them. These may indicatethat the child is experiencing problems associated with the death. It is best to consult a specialist like a counselor, a child psychologist or a bearevement specialist to help your child hurdle this difficult time.

It can be difficult to be around bereaved children but do not avoid them or avoid discussing the issue of loss when they want to talk about it. Assure them of your love and care. Learn also how to express your grief in positive ways. Remember that your child watches and observes and you are his/her best role model for grief.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Griefshare Ministry


For I will turn their mourning into joy - Jeremiah 31:13

When you lose so many people in your life, somehow or another, you become like a poster girl for grief. Other people would dread the title but it is something that I have taken in stride. Through my losses, I have found my life's purpose and God's mission for me here on earth. This is the reason behind this third, and most recent blog and a new ministry that God has directed my husband and me into.On November 18, 2006, my husband H and I will launch Griefshare at the Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Ortigas.
A new session begins on Friday, FEBRUARY 22, 2008 at the same venue.

Griefshare is a special seminar and support group for people grieving the loss of someone close. If you've lost a spouse, child, family member or friend, you've probably found that there are not many peopl who understand the depth of what you feel.Griefshare is sponsored by people who understand what you are experiencing and want to offer you comfort and encouragement during a very difficult time. Sessions are held every Saturday, beginning November 18, 2006 from 2-4PM.

Each Griefshare meeting includes a video seminar featuring top experts on grief and recovery subjects. Small group discussions about what you have seen on the DVD and interaction with others who have experienced recent similar losses are part of each meeting. Topics to be tackled are the following : The Emotions of Grief, Your Family and Grief, Where is God?, Stuck in Grief Or Moving On, Growing Through Grief, Grief Recovery Tool Kit, and many more. For those of you interested to join Griefshare or know of people who may benefit from the seminar, please email me at or text 918-906-8852 to sign up and find out more information on the program.

Griefshare is a non-denominational group and features biblical teaching on grief and recovery topics. Please feel free to check on this blog regularly for grief related topics. If you are currently experiencing a loss and there are issues or questions you may have on loss or grief and feel that you need help, please feel free to email me at the address above or post a question on this site. Prayer requests are most welcome too.