|How It Feels When A Parent Dies by Jill Krementz|
How It Feels When a Parent Dies by Jill Krementz
Everyone grieves at a different pace and in different ways. That's okay. That is a truth that is often misunderstood. Sometimes humans judge how others grieve. Of course, we have to be mindful of times that grief has over-taken us for too long of a period of time. And in those moments, professional help can help ease us back into the level of functioning we deserve. But otherwise, it is fine to grieve in the way that is best for us.
It is much the same with children. Children will grieve at a different pace and in many different ways - often in many different ways in the very same day. Sometimes an adult will wonder about the actions of a child who has lost a loved one, and not be able to make sense of the behaviors. Sometimes adults have a perception of how the child "should" be feeling or behaving.
Jill Krementz interviewed children about the death of their parent - allowing the children a place to tell their own story. As a result, this book is filled with examples of the different ways grief is experienced and the different things that are perceived helpful (or not) by each child. It is through listening to their voices that we can become more helpful.
To date, I have not found a book that is more enlightening about how children experience such difficult loss. I've had older children borrow the book and then read to me the stories that resonated. With younger children, I have either read a story to them or I've used my understanding from the book to let them disclose grief at their pace and help me to know what questions to ask.
In the introduction, Ms. Krementz wrote:
"One of the things I've realized while working on this book is that often a child whose parent has died doesn't know anyone else this has happened to, and feels particularly isolated and "special" in a very distressing way. I hope this book will help such children to realize that they are not alone...."Ms. Krementz interviewed 18 children, ranging from age 7 to 17 about the loss of their parent. The words in each "chapter" are that child's words - their own story. The causes of death range from sudden medical emergencies, long-term terminal illness, accidents, and suicide. The children's reactions include helpfulness, avoidance, confusion, guilt, disbelief, and more. Some children found comfort in being surrounded with visiting adults and others found the comfort of strangers intrusive and anger-provoking.
The book was first published in the early 1980's. My copy was published in 2000. Each chapter includes photos of the child telling the story. The photos are clearly dated - fashions and hairstyles long gone. But the stories are just as meaningful as the day the ink hit the page.
I think I'll close with a wonderful summary of the book by Bishop Paul Moore Jr. He wrote:
"To hear the voices of children speaking of death with innocent beauty is a rare and heartbreaking privilege. I wish I had read Jill Krementz's book when I moved alone with my nine children in the shadow of their mother's death. There are no rules. Some are angry with God. Some love the peace surrounding their mother's grave. Some want to hear all they can from their parents' friends. Some are jealous that anyone else knew her in a way they never could. If you are a widow, a pastor, a helpless-feeling friend, listen to these voices and learn to be strong and wise to these courageous young people."
Note: If you feel that someone is demonstrating their grief and loss in ways that are life-threatening (such as drugs, alcohol, physically risk behaviors. or self-harm) or if the daily functioning of children has been altered for a significant period of time (changes in school functioning, changes in behaviors, continued depressed or withdrawn behaviors) please consult the professionals to help assess the situation. While everyone experiences grief differently, some benefit from the assistance of a professional.
FOLLOW US ON: