July 13, 2014

The Pink Balloon—Helping Kids Cope With Grief

My husband's mum was an vital part of our lives. There hasn't been a day since she died suddenly that we don't miss her terribly. As adults who've had years to develop coping skills, it's still tough. So how can a child possibly cope when they can't begin to reconcile the devastation of loss and moreover, the finality of death?

Our eleven year old son experienced anxiety resulting from the loss of his grandmother, so we sought help. Grief counseling has helped him begin to accept the death and has given him skills to cope with the fear of losing his parents and sister.

Avery, our seven year old, seems to be the most profoundly affected. She and her 'Grandie' had a special bond (one that my husband and I are convinced has continued in some other worldly way. It sounds odd, but the evidence we've seen is impossible to ignore. More on that another time, maybe. We're not quite ready to share.).

At first Avery believed her Grandie had gone to the dentist and would be coming back, soon. We don't know where this idea came from. Regardless, the first dental appointment I took the kids to afterward was a difficult to say the least.

When it became evident that Avery was struggling to find the words to express her sorrow and confusion, we took her to see a counsellor through ErinOak Kids. This was best thing we could have done.

Not only was our daughter able to communicate her feelings in a safe and comforting environment, I also came away with some helpful strategies.

These are some of things that have helped my children deal with grief and loss. They are invaluable tools to use with a child with developmental delays, but they would be equally effective for any young child.

There are dozens of how-to style books for parents. This one, lent to me by a sweet friend, was great: Parenting Through Crisis: Helping Kids In Times OF Loss, Grief, And Change by Barbara Coloroso  

Great Answers to Difficult Questions about DEATH: What Children Need To Know by Linda Goldman is also EXCELLENT. It's the resource Avery's grief councellor uses.

There are also many stories written specifically for children. Some good ones include:
  • When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown
  • Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
  • Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss by Michaelene Mundy
Please feel free to add your own suggestions to the comments. 

Write your own story: 
We're writing our own story called "Wasn't Grandie Grand?" My son is writing the words and Avery is helping with the illustrations. It's a good way to be able to talk about the person we miss so much while preserving the special memories and day-to-day details that will inevitably begin to fade.

Listen and Talk: 
Though it's a difficult and uncomfortable topic most parents would rather avoid, when kids ask, "Where did grandma go? and "Why did she die?" or "What is dead?" As sad as it is for us, let them talk. Answering their questions in a truthful but age appropriate way helps them heal.

Use proper language. She didn't pass away (this concept doesn't make sense to kids) and she isn't in a deep sleep. She died. She is dead. Use the words.

We told Avery that Grandie died and that she is in heaven. Though I don't personally believe in the concept, we felt that having a concrete "place" to imagine would be helpful for Avery.

What does dead mean?
That's a tough one. A good explanation come from Goldman's book, "Death means when the body stops working. Sometimes people die when they are very, very, very old or very, very, very sick, or they are so, so, so injured that the doctors and nurses can't make their bodies work anymore. Grandma died. It is sad. She will not move, not be warm, and not be alive again." 

It was hard to say those words, but children are smart and they know when they are being lied to. They need to understand and accept that death means forever. Otherwise how can they grieve?

Your child may not have the words or may prefer to express themselves with pictures. Avery drew many pictures of her Grandie (always smiling). She often wrote a few words with the pictures too.
"Grandie I love you from Avery." or "I miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you." 


Go through old albums or iPhotos and let your child select a few special photos. Put them in frames around the house and in a special spot in their bedroom. The photos are often a good place to start conversations about our lost loved ones.

Memory Box
Avery and I bought a pretty box and filled it with little things that remind us of Grandie. We went to my in-law's house and Granddad helped us choose a few things to put in the box—Grandie's tea cup, a scarf, a bracelet, a broach, the necklace Avery loved to fondle while her Grandie wore it. Whenever Avery is feeling sad and missing her grandma, she looks through her special Memory Box and finds comfort. 

Paper Lanterns and Candle Lighting Ceremonies
Avery's counsellor told us about a candle ceremony that takes place a few times a year in our community. Families have a chance to light candles or paper lanterns in honour of lost loved ones. We love this idea and hope to participate at some point. In the meantime, we bought paper lanterns for each of the grandkids to send up to Grandie this summer when we're all together at the cottage. If you like, you can write a simple message on the side of the lantern.

Message In A Balloon
I find it difficult to watch this video without getting emotional. However, we want to share it with you in hopes it will help families who are struggling. If your children are having trouble coping with the loss of a special person, you might consider doing this. It gave Avery, all of us in fact, some much needed closure and an emotional release.

Avery wrote her Grandie a note with her counsellor (we respected her privacy and didn't read it, though I really wanted to). We took her message to the party store and Avery chose a pink balloon. "My Grandie likes pink," she told the clerk as she inserted the note into the balloon and inflated it with helium.

We went to a special spot where we feel close to Grandie. After a few words from Avery (which still break my heart) we released the balloon carrying the goodbye message of a seven years old girl up to her Grandie, on what would have been her 77th birthday.

We miss you Grandie. xo

Imagine If We All Approched Life Like Tim?

Tim owns a restaurant called Tim's Place, in Albuquerque.
They serve breakfast, lunch, and hugs.
Tim loves his job.
What else makes Tim so special?


July 12, 2014

Paper Bag Princess

My daughter read "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch and then did this project (with help from her EA at school). Cute right?

Know what else is cute? This REAL LIFE Paper Bag Princess.

(Filmed by her brother while they were BOTH supposed to be helping me pull weeds!) 

July 10, 2014

Affected By This? Then "Urine" For It!

Just imagine how many people pee freely in public pools. Wait, don't. It's far too disgusting. (By the way, experts estimate ONE in FIVE people urinate while swimming. Thank goodness for chlorine and hot showers). 

My daughter would happily stay in her grandparents' pool all day if we let her—minus the dozen or more times she has to get out of the pool to pee. And not just a tinkle. We're talking bucketfuls. Literally. To save the poor child from drying off every ten minutes to use the toilet, my mum fashioned her a makeshift outdoor-bucket-potty.
"AGAIN?! There's no possible way. She just went." my husband would exclaim, shaking his head in disbelief.

"What do you mean we need to pull over and use the bathroom at the grocery store? We're almost home, can't you hold it?" I'd whine, trying hard not to sound pissed off. Pun acknowledged.
During swimming lessons Avery has to leave the pool to use the bathroom two to three times at least. We knew there had to be a scientific reason because on dry land, she's just as dry as a camel, so what gives? My friend Sharon told me she experienced the same thing and that there's a "sciency" name for it.

The sciency name is Immersion Diuresis. 
Immersion diuresis occurs when the body is immersed in water and is mainly caused by lower temperature and by pressure.

1. The temperature component is caused by water drawing heat away from the body, causing the cutaneous blood vessels to constrict to conserve heat. The body detects an increase in the blood pressure and inhibits the release of antidiuretic hormone, causing an increase in the production of urine. 

2. The external hydrostatic pressure due to being immersed in water causes a shift in blood from the periphery to the central circulation. The body detects the shift and assumes that blood volume is too great. This results in reduced secretion of ADH so less water is reabsorbed in the kidneys. Hence.... the pee bucket. Source

Why this affects some people more than others is a mystery of science. I actually have high blood pressure. By all accounts, shouldn't I be peeing like a fish? Wait, do fish even pee? I mean race horse. (And why do race horses pee more than regular horses? Is that why they can run so fast? They're running for an open field to let 'er rip?)

I'm just glad to have a sciency answer. And a potty-bucket. And access to a private pool that is mathematically proven to have a lower urine-to-H2O ratio than a public pool. Though according to the math, if ONE in FIVE people pee while swimming and there are five family members swimming in my parent's pool, one of must be peeing. I'm placing my bets on Grandma. Just kidding mum. ;)

"OOL Rules: Notice there's no P? Let's keep it that way."


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