You are Not an Afterthought

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"Afterward" to A Guide on How to Help Kids Cope with a Broken Heart

If you’re reading this blog, I think it's safe to make several assumptions. Number one, you are a deeply caring and thoughtful individual. Number two, you are invested in the well-being of the children in your life. And number three, which is perhaps the most important point, you are navigating a significant loss or change too.

This guide was borne from my desire to identify practical ways to help adults help children navigate grief and loss. When I began this guide, I set my focus on children: their experiences, their point-of-view, and their interpretation of grief.  I used this perspective to inform my thinking and research so that I could address one need that I know adults have in times of grief: guidance for helping their children. I recognize now that in so doing, I have unintentionally left adults’ own needs as an afterthought. I would like to end with a thought that's quite the contrary: you are the key.

This guide, like children, is demanding; demanding of your time, your thought, and your attention. These commodities are already the most valuable a parent or grandparent or teacher can offer a child. But in times of upheaval, these resources become even more scarce and precious. Grief, loss and change can overwhelm even the most stoic among us and threaten our feelings of competence and balance. I recognize that this may be the station at which you found yourself when you visited this site.

Paradoxically, I wrote this blog not to add to your full plate, but to simplify your efforts in helping your children. My hope is that I have provided clear and practical ways to put one foot in front of the other. I honestly believe that even if you never implement the suggestions in this blog, you are still doing a phenomenal job. You are invested in doing the right thing for children and you are committed to learning ways to do just that.  And if you never do one single thing I suggested, I still want you to endeavor to do just one thing: check your oxygen mask.

Oxygen masks have become an oft-referenced analogy in coping: your first order of business is to take care of yourself so that you can properly attend to children. For the sake of yourself and the sake of children in your life, please don’t neglect yourself. Take time to pay attention to your own psychological health. Give yourself permission to grieve and to mourn. By attending to your own needs in times of crisis, you are not only maintaining a stable base for the children in your life, you are also modeling self-care and healthy coping. That is another priceless gift you offer to children.

Finally, one thing that psychologists have marveled at is the healing power of empathy and sympathy. Of course we know that this helps others, but what’s astonishing is just how much this can help us help ourselves. In difficult times, one of the best things we can do to help ourselves feel better is to help others. I hope you have found this blog helpful in helping children in your lives, and in helping them, perhaps you yourself will heal a little.

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