Help young people navigate the journey of grief
A personal experience
I felt inspired to write this to help young people navigate the journey of grief. With the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, I could see (and feel) how powerful the energy of grief was for thousands of people.
Many of us are triggered by this experience, evoking strong and unexpected emotions we thought we had managed/dealt with from the past.
But as I watched the procession in Scotland, I witnessed a family who had lost someone they loved deeply, and grief was etched on their faces.
How children experience grief
Our young people have been through such a challenging time. Pandemics and times of great fear. And now a very public demonstration of grief in all its forms with the Queen’s passing.
We can help them navigate this with some mindful tools that benefit you and your family. Grief is not easy to discuss, so it can be helpful to use our mindfulness skills to help us process what we are all experiencing – young and old.
“The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.”
An abridged version of this quote is attributed to the late Queen, but it’s source is Dr Colin Murray Parkes, a British psychiatrist and a pioneer in this field who helps guide us to accept why we feel what we feel.
This is a skill we teach on our teaching programme, but it is something we can start to practise right now with our families.
It’s the ability to listen deeply to our young people.
Adults have a habit of finishing the sentences of children. We witness them struggling to find the words so we feel an urge to give them the words.
In the course of natural child development, it is okay to do this, but in these emotional circumstances, letting them know that ‘not knowing’ is okay too. Doing this is a powerful acknowledgement of a major life lesson; grief.
We invite them to share what they think and feel. We make no judgement or provide no solutions. We just listen deeply, feeling our own breath move in and out, and (if feelings of emotion come up for us) allowing ourselves to feel them and accept/breathe them in.
This creates a safe space for children to share.
Mindful speech is part of the communication It’s where we share what’s in our own heart. Perhaps we feel confused, hurt or upset. Perhaps it triggers old memories of grief we have experienced. All of this is relevant to how your child will perceive grief. We can let them know that what an adult (a human being) feels at the time of grief is personal – and all of it is okay. There’s no right/wrong way to experience grief.
Mindful speech also offers the chance for honesty. Giving them answers that are simple, honest and heartfelt will teach them how to do this when they need to communicate.
While you practise mindful speech, they can practise mindful listening.
Facing our feelings
When we hurt, we want to run away, turn away from what we are noticing. But this rejection of what we feel actually adds more energy to it.
Even if we try to distract ourselves with busy tasks, it’s like adding energy to the feelings we want to ignore.
So we can turn towards what we feel. We can name it and we can allow/give ourselves permission to feel it. This is a very deep practise but it is a healing one too.
We can teach young people to do this. Giving them a list of emotions they can use to help them communicate, and will help bring light into a dark room of confusion. It will help bring some clarity to their world.
If we help them acknowledge these feelings and honour each one with a “I am feeling xxx, and I allow myself to feel this” can be a powerful act of self compassion and self love. It can relax the body, the mind and the heart and help the love (behind the grief) shine through.
Placing a hand on the heart as we do this is a physical signal of this acceptance and can help calm the nervous system and the stress we and our family feel at this time.
On our YouTube channel we have a meditation thathelps young people with grief. However I decided to record some additional meditations that encapsulates the words in this blog. There is one for young children, for tweens and for teens. Each a different style to accommodate their attention span and cognitive skills.
Invite your young person to listen and perhaps it will inspire mindful commnication that can help everyone heal at this time. Helping young people navigate the journey of grief.
Grief Meditation for Under 5s – coming soon via insight timer
Other resources that may help
Mindful meditation for grief – adults/teens (video)
Talking to children about the death of the Queen