2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 18:44
A child who dies before his parents upsets the cycle of life. He shouldn't leave before them. However, when tragedy strikes, parents must relearn how to live.
The death of a child upsets the logical order of things. Mamanpourlavie.com asked a few questions to Josée Jacques,psychologist and college professor who is particularly interested in the phenomena of transitions and bereavement. Here is the report of this touching interview which can help a bereaved parent or his loved ones.
What are the stages of grief?
I prefer to talk about large periods, which is less prescriptive. Otherwise, some people try to assess whether they are hurt or angry to see what they will experience next. There is no identical mourning, because there are no identical people.
Here are the major periods:
- Shock period: It is difficult to recognize reality and loss. We're in survival mode, which still has the effect of keeping us alert.
- Period of disorganization: This is a great period of realizing loss and absence. We experience a mixture of anger, pain, regret, guilt, etc. We learnto live according to the absence, but we feel very disorganized.
- Reorganization period: We feel that quietly the emotions are less lively. We're not turning the page, but we've found a new way to live.
Do mothers and fathers grieve the same way?
Basically, each bereavement is unique and different, because we had a unique and different relationship with the child. Between the dad and the mom, we cannot generalize, but usually the woman has more facility to live or express her sadness and the man has more facility to express his anger. When a couple comes to see me at the office, the woman will often cry and the man will be "damn handsome!" ". It's not proven, but it's an observable trend, not just in this situation. The woman allows herself more to express her emotions, to seek help or to confide in a good friend. Men have more difficulty dealing with their emotions, tend to be avoidant and are less likely to seek support around them.
How do you deal with the death of a child?
There is, of course, no miracle recipe. I believe in learning to take care of yourself in order to find meaning in life. In the grieving process, we must respect our rhythm and accept that today we are fine, but that tomorrow we will see. We can't rush things and say "good tomorrow, it's going to be fine". In the same way, you cannot "force" an apple tree to haveapples in the spring. We will harvest apples in the fall, which also implies that we will have lived through a winter, a spring and a summer.
It is not the time that is important in bereavement, but rather what we do during that time to take care of ourselves. If an apple tree is left to wither or left untended, it will not bear apples in the fall. Same thing for a bereaved parent; he can get dizzy while working, for example, but that does not mean that because the mourning lasted a year that he is better.
Support and self-help groups are very helpful. Meeting people who are going through the same thing as you makes you feel less alone. There are now also groups for perinatal bereavement. Before, this grief was not even recognized as a significant loss. They were told "You didn't have time to get attached to this child you didn't know", but that's not true. The parents are attached to it and they had already made projections on this child. So these are also dreams that leave.
What is important to do in times of mourning?
You have to take care of yourself. Sometimes we ask too much. We are too demanding or we don't want to cry. We must accept his pain and his fragility from day to day. By respecting our rhythm, being true and taking care of ourselves, we are on the right track. Sometimes I hear moms say, “I have to be strong for the other kids. I mustn't cry in front of them , but at the same time, theysay they are worried because their children do not cry. When I ask them if they cry in front of them, they understand that there is no point in hiding our pain from them. They want to protect them, but in the end each one worries for the other.
Of course, we must not collapse in front of the other children and be so taken up with our own pain that we are not available for the pain of the siblings. But bereaved parents must allow themselves to express their pain and sadness in front of the children, otherwise they might ask themselves "How is it that mom does not cry and that I still have pain". So it's better to be real and tell them "yes, I still have pain" or "I have pain, but I love you as much as before. or "I'm crying because I'm bored too".
My friend lost her child. What can I do? What to tell him?
You shouldn't bury your head in the sand or avoid broaching the subject. The bereaved parents want to remember the child and do not want to pretend that he did not exist. They still want to use his first name and for them. If a friend has lost her child, you have to show her that you are there and be true. Often we are uncomfortable and we stammer words like “I understand you”. Yet the bereaved parent knows his friend can't quite understand. When a word tumbles too quickly, it is better to pull yourself together and say “No, it’s true. I can't understand you, I didn't lose my child. Excuse me. »
Because accompanying a parent who loses a child is so difficult. We cannot find the right words to ease their grief. A friend is grieving her child? Also read Do's (and Don'ts) for Bereaved Parents.
What to say to other children who have lost a sibling?
Of course, it varies depending on their age. But what does not change is that they are told the truth. For toddlers, between 3 and 5 years old, they must be made to feel guilty. At this age, they still believe in "magical thinking", they think they have some power over the universe and that they could have had an influence on the death. If they said, the days before the death, "I don't want you to be my brother anymore!" or “You piss me off. Go away! or if they secretly, without saying so, wished for their little sister to disappear, they might believe that the death is connected to their "thought" or wish.
There's no point pushing them around, we let the children come with their questions. When they ask us, we tell them the truth and, above all, if we don't know the answer, we tell them too. “Does she see me? We can answer, "I don't know, but me when I think that she sees me, it makes me feel good." You, what makes you feel good? " Attention! We don't impose our belief system on them, because others may see it differently. We can also get him, subtly, to tell us what he believes.
Should we talk about the deceased child?
Yes, that muchdoes us good. He had a place in the family and he probably always will. Even a 94 year old who lost a child when he was young will always remember him and count him among his children. We must leave a place for the deceased child so that he does not take up all the space. There is the nuance. It is better to give a space – not all the space – precise to the memory of the child in time according to the occasions. For example, on his birthday, you can bake his favorite cake, light a candle at Christmas to remind him of his presence, go to pray at his grave on his birthday, etc. His presence is emphasized despite his absence. Of course, we are going to "get into" the emotions, it will last a few minutes or an hour, but it will be limited to a specific time or action and everyone will be better off.
Otherwise, if we do nothing, everyone may think about it and have a heavy heart without giving themselves the right to talk about it openly. We must not act "as if" or just cry under the covers, we create rituals that do us good. A family I met was going to buy sweets on the birthday of the deceased child because he liked them very much. It was their way of emphasizing his presence in a little attention that made them feel good…
The funeral or the ceremony: a stage?
Seeing the body of a deceased child helps in the grieving process, for both parents and bereaved children. We better recognize our loss and this also avoidsto have the impression that we will find him in his bed in the early morning. The ceremony allows bereaved parents to feel the support of their loved ones, to see that our child was loved and that we are loved too.
It is good to include other children in the ceremony even from the age of two. First, they like to be able to participate. They can carry flowers, draw a picture or even say a little word. In funeral homes, it is good to have other children. It's good to see that life goes on. Of course, don't expect them to experience the experience the way we do. Children have the ability to move quickly from one emotion to another. We can't tell them "Stop laughing!" You should be in pain”. Also, we suggest that parents find someone significant to the children to accompany them during the ceremony and even in the living room.
When should you go for a consultation?
Sometimes, to simply normalize what we are experiencing, consulting can be a good option. Often also, during the first weeks and months, the parents receive a lot of support. But after five or six months, they experience a trough when the period of disorganization usually begins.
Also, when we realize that we can no longer function, it is better to consult to allow us to see a little more clearly. As we go to the dentist before having a toothache, we can go to consult in prevention. Some funeral homes offer with thearrangements for free consultations.
And his room? His toys? What to do with the memories?
If it makes us feel good, we'll keep the room untouched for a while. There is no key moment or prescriptions to follow to know if you can unpack the room, give away your toys, etc. And we must remember that it is not because we remove objects or that we dismantle the room, that we will forget the child. Grieving takes time. We will always think about this child, but one day, we will especially be able to think about it and it will be less painful.
Thanks to Josée Jacques for her availability. Josée Jacques is a psychologist and professor of psychology and communication at Rosemont College.
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