“We can go through the grieving process multiple times. Sometimes they last hours, sometimes they last weeks, and sometimes they may last a couple of months.” – Kent Allen
Children and Adult can have triggers that can send them back into grief, even years down the road. Understanding that delayed grief and grief attacks are part of the process can help us be prepared to deal with them when they occur.
One widow described a teenage son who didn’t grieve for the first 4 years and then he cried like a baby and slept with her. Then 10 year later, he struggled again with grief.
Another widow said of her teenage daughter, “She held herself together by not allowing herself to acknowledge or express her feelings. By the time the next school year began, that dam broke. Years two and three were awful. The fourth was a bit better and has been improving since.”With older children we wonder, how do we help them grieve so they and we can all move forward together as a family. The truth is that everyone will grieve on their own timetable. We can not plan it or force it. We have to wait until they are ready, and face it with compassion and empathy when it emerges.
In a different family, after the death of her father, a 16 year-old daughter never really grieved. Her mother said they even joked with her that she has never really gone through it yet. Her mother kept telling her, “Honey, someday you are going to have to do this. You can’t just skip it.” She described her as a type-A student who just delved into her studies after her father died. She wondered how do I help her?
With older children we wonder, how do we help them grieve so they and we can all move forward together as a family. The truth is that everyone will grieve on their own timetable. We can not plan it or force it. We have to wait until they are ready, and face it with compassion and empathy when it emerges. For some grief may not surface until another family member passes away. It may pop up when a new life event happens. For example, a widow told me her oldest daughter didn’t really grieve until her first child was born.
Grief can also come back due to triggers. It is not uncommon for teens to struggle when a parent starts to date or gets remarried. Understanding and identifying potential triggers can help families better deal with grief attacks and lessen the impact of these emotional events on the whole family.
As long as older children are functioning and coping with life, we don’t need to worry about the when and if they will grieve, but we do need to be aware that these episodes can happen again and again. We also can have hope, even in the midst of the episodes by knowing that they are normal, and with emotional support, they too will pass.
Questions to Ponder:
- How can identifying potential triggers and planning a coping mechanism, help you overcome grief attacks?
Check out this post in the Choosing your Reactions Badge