In light of November 16th being Children's Grief Awareness Day, I recount my experience as a child griever in today's episode.
Back in the '80s, and still very much today, the topic of grief was uncomfortable and not something people openly shared their feelings about. Not to mention, the resources that exist today did not exist back then, leaving society to fend for itself and perpetuate the myths of grief I so often talk about: Don't Feel Bad, Replace the Loss, Grieve Alone, Be Strong, Keep Busy, and Time Heals.
Growing up with grief poses many challenges for children, particularly with the loss of parents, safety, and security. The myths of grief have been ingrained in our society, and grieving children of the past, like myself, grow up passing those same myths down to their children. Hence, the cycle of grief misinformation continues. This is why I am so passionate about talking about grief because the cycle must be broken.
The more people who recognize they're not forever broken or destined for a life of grief and instead learn new information and tools, the better off future generations will be - the better off our world will be.
I encourage all listeners to empathize with grieving children during this Children's Grief Awareness Day. Reflect on the role you play in the life of a grieving child you know. If you want a child to feel safe in sharing, as an adult, you often have to go first in sharing.
Through this episode, you will also learn children's common reactions to grief and more. In Part II, I will focus on an experience many children have today - divorced parents and navigating the holidays, especially if this is the first holiday without a loved one.
If you are struggling with grief due to any of the 40+ losses, free resources are available HERE.
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Victoria Volk: Hello, hello, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, whatever time it is that you are listening to this thank you for being here. If this is your first time listening, I hope you enjoy this episode. And if you find it helpful, I hope you share it or leave a five-star review if you feel like it's beneficial information and if you walked away learning something, and if this is not your first time listening, thank you for tuning in again. And if you have not left a review yet for the podcast, I would greatly appreciate it.
Victoria Volk: Today, I wanna talk more about child grief because Thursday, November sixteenth is Children's Grief Awareness Day. And I felt it was important just to share a little bit more on this topic for children's grief awareness because I think, let's say, if you lose your spouse or you lose your parent, right, if the child loses their grandparent, it can be really easy to kinda get wrapped up in your own emotions and your own feelings and thoughts and sadness. Right? And I certainly experienced this for myself as a child griever where there really wasn't a lot of communication with me asking me as an eight-year-old how I felt about my dad's passing or how I felt about not seeing him or essentially growing up without him.
Victoria Volk: There really wasn't a whole lot of conversation directed at me and about how I was dealing with that devastating loss. He had been sick for several years colon cancer. I am currently the age that my dad was when he passed away. I'm forty-four years old. And I cannot imagine. He was sick for about two years before he passed. And by the time they caught it, it was or founded it was too late, but he hung on. And he put up the good fight, but I did have a lot of difficulty with that loss, both getting into my twenties, certainly as a teenager it's not an easy time anyway, but my mother had I'll say quickly because to me, as a kid, it's seemed quick. Within two years, my mom was remarried and this new guy was in our life and he treated me well. There was no issue there. He wasn't there a lot because he was a long-haul trucker.
Victoria Volk: And my childhood was just a really, like, full of extremes. Right? It was these really high highs and these really low lows. But there was more lows than there were highs because they didn't have the best relationship. And of course, it's really difficult to be married to someone who isn't there a whole lot just in general. So anyway, my childhood and my teen years were just a really difficult time, and that was the best I could, and I found myself really trying to emotionally care take others I was often the emotional caretaker for my mom and for a lot of friends, like I was the shoulder that friends cried on, and I was happy to be the supportive friend, to be the friend that was there for everyone.
Victoria Volk: I'd been through a lot at that by my teen years, I had been through a lot and experienced a lot more than maybe some people I know that are my age now. And so I had to grow up fast I did. I had to grow up fast. And so I really don't feel like I had much of a carefree childhood that children really do deserve. And so that's really why I wanted to highlight this topic today because for me, Children Grief Awareness Day is all about the kids. So I just want you to listen and set aside whatever you're experiencing, whatever sadness and grief and whatever you're feeling about a loss that you've recently had, and you have a child that's experiencing it alongside you. I want you to just set aside whatever you're feeling and attempt to put yourself in the shoes of this child that you know or love. No end love. Maybe it's your own child. Maybe it's your grandchild. Maybe it is maybe you're an older sibling and it's a younger child in the family, that's still at home because maybe you're in your twenties and your sibling is like fifteen I don't know, but I'm just the focus today, let's put it on the children. And so as you're listening to this episode, it is my hope that you walk away from this episode learning something.
Victoria Volk: So many of the normal and natural signs of grief are fairly obvious. And most of those signs would be the same for a child's reaction to a death, divorce or some other type of loss. But let's just say we're talking about news about a death. Often, the immediate response learning of a death is a sense of, like, this numbness, which can last a different amount of time for each child. What usually lasts longer and is even more universe is a reduced ability to concentrate. And I can say that for me, as a child, if I would have gone to a therapist or a psychologist or what had you, which was not the case. My mom would have probably been told that I had ADHD. So other common reactions include major changes in eating and sleeping patterns. These patterns can alternate from one extreme to the other. Also typical is a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. And these are not stages. They're simply just some of the normal ways in which the body and the mind and especially the emotions respond to the overwhelmingly painful information that something out of the ordinary has occurred.
Victoria Volk: So going back to my personal experience as a child griever, and within the year of my dad's passing, I know I mentioned this on the podcast before, but if you've never listened to an episode, I was molested and in going into my teen years. So when I say that my childhood was you know, not much of a childhood. I'm this is the context in which I'm speaking to that. So there was a lot of change and a lot of trauma in my early life. And I can tell you that I slept a lot. Most of the pictures I have of myself as a child are of me sleeping, sleeping in the middle of the living room, floor midday or before actually bedtime, falling asleep on my bed before a birthday party, which I completely miss because my mother felt the need to take a picture but not wake me up for the birthday party. And I was a tardy a lot with school. And I would always get an elementary school. It was like an n for needs improvement. I would always have an n for listens to and follows directions.
Victoria Volk: So again, comes back to this change in sleep patterns or inability to concentrate. And just really fidgety. Like, I just recall being very just very much in, like, my own la la land. But these reactions to a death are normal and typical. And even if there has been a long-term illness, like in the case of my dad, which may have included substantial time and opportunity to so unquote unquote prepare for that which would inevitably happen. We cannot repair ourselves or our children in advance for the emotional reaction to a death because we don't understand the finality. We can't even wrap our heads around the finality of that moment until it actually occurs.
Victoria Volk: If you've listened to any previous episodes, you've heard me say that grief isn't just about physical death. There's a much broader definition that encompasses all losses experiences, which I've shared before on this podcast. But if this is your first time listening, grief is the conflicting feelings caused by a change or an end in a familiar pattern of behavior. So, if you're thinking about like these list of losses that include death of a pet, death of a grandparent, moving, divorce, divorce of a child's parents, and death of a parent. Each of these losses represents a massive change or end from everything familiar. With death, the person or path that has always been. There is no longer there. With moving, the familiar place and surroundings are different. Divorce alters all of the routines in a child's life. It often includes changes in living situations and separation from extended family, members and friends. All of these losses mentioned carry with them the obvious emotional impact that we can all imagine would affect children.
Victoria Volk: But our definition of grief includes the idea that there are conflicting feelings. If you've ever had a loved one who struggled for a long time with the terminal illness, you may have had some feelings of relief when that person died. The relief usually stems from the idea that your loved one is no longer in pain. At the same time, your heart may have felt broken because he or she was no longer here. So the conflicting feelings are relief and sadness. Moving also sets up conflicting feelings. We may miss some of the familiar things that we liked about the old house or the neighborhood. And at the same time really like some of the things about the new place.
Victoria Volk: Children are particularly affected by changes in locations, routines, and physical familiarity, death, divorce, and even moving or obvious losses, unless the parent or loss is having to do with health issues, a major change in the physical or mental health of a child or a parent can have dramatic impact on a child's life. And even though children are not usually involved with financial matters, they can also be affected by major financial changes, positive or negative within their family. Society has identified more than forty life experiences that produce feelings of grief. And at the Grief Recovery Institute, they've expanded that list to include many of the loss experiences that are less concrete and difficult to measure such as loss of trust, loss of safety, and loss of control are the most prominent of the intangible but life altering experiences that affect children's lives.
Victoria Volk: Intangible losses tend to be hidden and often do not surface until later in life through therapy and other self-examinations. I can tell you that that was certainly true for myself. I hope that this initial information is a good foundation that it helps you gain a better understanding of how grief just doesn't impact you, but it impacts the children in your life in a lot of similar ways, but in a lot of different ways too.
Victoria Volk: I'm gonna make this a two-part series. Next week, I'm going to record and focus on children with divorce, experiencing their parents with divorce. Because we're going into Thanksgiving and the holidays and things and with it being Children's Grief Awareness Day. I'm just gonna make this a two-part and hopefully you can find some resources and support in moving into the holidays through these couple episodes. That's the episode for today. I laid the foundation. Come back next week for where we're gonna talk about divorce. And that impact on children and navigating all of that with the holidays. So I hope to have you back next week. And in the meantime, remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.