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4 ways to help your kids if they’re grieving

by Jason Kovacs Published May 21, 2017

culture

Imagine climbing into a car or onto a plane and leaving behind everything you have ever known: pets, possessions, places, your home, your relationships.

When we bring a child into our home, we’re offering them a new family and a new life, but it’s important to keep in mind all they’re leaving behind.  In addition to all the physical and emotional losses, the sudden cultural change might also mean losing a sense of belonging and a sense of safety.  So much of what helps us feel connected to the world around us in an understanding of how we fit.  When cultural realities shift suddenly, that can be lost.

To make things even more complicated for a child in Foster Care or Adoption, while they are experiencing all this loss, everyone around them might be throwing a party, (and rightly so!)  While they might at some point recognize the day they entered your home as one of the best of their life, in the moment, it might feel like the hardest day they’ve faced.   That kind of discordance can make grief challenging, and that, in turn, leads to a situation where individuals aren’t able to appropriately heal and process emotions.

What can we do?

As parents, we have a few things to consider in these situations:

Face your own culture of grief

One of the greatest barriers to engaging your kiddos in their sadness is your own narrative around grief or loss.  All of us grew up in environments where certain emotions were valued over others. Getting in touch with your own bias’ around what is a ‘valid loss’ and what is not, is the first step.  In order to enter into your child’s pain, you need to also be able to have compassion on your own losses.

Validate

Validate is really a psychological word for the Biblical concept of compassion.  When we validate someone’s loss we look at them and agree that what they’re facing is really hard.  It’s not pity.  Compassion doesn’t place us on a higher plane.  It levels the playing field between both the griever and the comforter, and enables us to understand, to empathize.  If you struggle with this, it may be worth journaling through all that your child has lost to try to grasp just what this might have been like for them.

Embrace grief

If your kiddo is sad and grieving, remind yourself that grief is not a thing that we need to be treated for; grief is our soul’s treatment for wounds.  It’s a way of integrating losses into our identity and making sense of the world around us.  Some parents may understand and validate their child’s pain but feel unable to let them work through it, feeling instead a temptation to save them from it.  They may feel the need to point out the positive or smother the pain with a treat.  But the more kids feel safe to grieve and the less afraid they are of those feelings, the more they are able to navigate the world around them.

Start with you and God

And if all this is really hard, it might be worth starting with you and God.  After all, you too are an adopted child who has left behind a culture.  You too have losses to grieve.  Practice hearing from your Father about His culture of grief, where He collects your tears in a bottle.  Hear His validation of your pain as He has compassion on you for He knows your frame.  Learn from Him as you watch Him grieve the death of a friend in John 11.  You have a Great High Priest who is able to sympathize with you in your weakness.  Draw near to find grace and help.

If you want to know more about cultural bereavement and how grief plays out for kids, you can watch this short video here!  And don’t forget to sign up for our CAP list so you get resources like this sent to you automatically!

If you need help navigating some of these obstacles with your kids, sign up for four free coaching sessions where we hope to learn more about your experiences and provide you with support and tools for moving forward with your family. If you’re interested, let us know here.

We’re also offer online group sessions for moms who might be interested in processing and sharing their experiences with us!  Interested? Sign up here.

Learn more about CAP!


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