Friday, 14 May 2021 00:29

Grief & Loss

Death is all around us, a normal part of life... meaning GRIEF is a constant wave for some people and our children need to develop the skills to be able to express their feelings of grief and continue to function in life.

It is a big topic, a scary topic, but an important conversation. Recently some of our MICCC team were privileged to take part in the SIDS and Kids ‘Grief and Loss’ training. Our facilitator was an amazingly strong woman, an inspirational human, who despite having experienced the death of her own young child, wanted to share her story and a toolkit of knowledge and resources to support others. I am writing this blog today knowing that in a few hours I will be attending the funeral of a friend, who was a father to 2 young children. This year alone children have shared the deaths of their family pets and spoken of deceased grandparents when sharing their family photos, even our beloved stick insect died. Death is awful but it is part of the circle of life and learning that grief is normal is really important for children.

As a teacher I was never taught about what to do if a child in your classroom never returns because they are deceased, or how to hold space appropriately when a child returns to childcare after the death of a sibling, parent, grand parent, pet or friend. The sad reality is that grief doesn’t just relate to death, it exists in various facets of life, like; separation, divorce, moving house, the arrival of a new sibling, changes in routines or family dynamics, especially for those in foster care. Every culture embraces death and grief differently and every individual who experiences trauma will grieve differently. Being emotionally prepared for a new reality of life is a very difficult and long journey for many.

Creating an element of normalcy with routines is key for children experiencing grief. They need to experience power and control through CHOICE, COMMUNICATION and CONSENT. So much is already out of control for them so they need to know what is coming next and have a say in what is coming next. While the stages of grief are common, the way individuals navigate their way through grief is truly unique. From the outside it seems that children process grief and adapt to change quicker than adults, but that is not true... their grief lingers and comes in waves without warning. Young children are not yet equipped to understand, process or express their feelings adequately so it is important that no child ever feels alone through their trauma. While you might want them to talk about their feelings, it is vital that they have many different non-verbal options to be able to explore and express what they are feeling in a way that suits them. Specialist therapists are amazing at supporting children through trauma, using different mediums like; art therapy, play therapy, music therapy, sleep therapy and psychology. SIDS offers bereavement counselling for children up to the age of six and many support services across Australia are ready to help your whole family with grief. The graphic I have put with this blog identifies some picture books that can help to explore the concept of death with children and/or the feelings associated with grief. Our Centre is in the process of purchasing copies of all of these books to keep in our library to share with families.

Funerals are a powerful vessel for children to process grief, an opportunity for them to ask questions, say goodbye, to see and feel emotions in action and normalise the process of death... knowledge and experience that will stay with them for life. It was also noted that using the correct terminology is vital. Like we do with our child protection curriculum when we use the appropriate terms for body parts, the terms death, dead, died and deceased are extremely important for children hear, many other terms like loss or passed have alternate meanings and can be quite confusing for children. Having said that, we are one hundred percent committed to honouring the individual beliefs, cultures and religious values of our MICCC families.

I want to personally thank Kat our facilitator for being so open and relatable, for creating a safe space for us to explore our own feelings of grief. It gave us the opportunity to reflect as a centre about how we can further explore death with the children appropriately and respectfully, if and when the time should arise.

If this post is a trigger for any of our readers or you have any concerns you would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our well-being PLC representatives (Jo, Sarah R, Amy C, Rochelle, Ollie and Sarah B).

 

OLLIE LAUDER - MICCC EDUCATIONAL LEADER

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