FLIP the SCRIPT!
“Don’t cry. It’s upsetting your mommy,” said my wonderful, but slightly inebriated aunt. I was at my brother’s wake. I was ten years old. From that day forward, I took that command quite seriously. Don’t cry. It upsets people. To this day, the only tears I shed are infrequent and brief. Putting my dog down brought a flood but if I hadn’t been able to cry then, I’d be a serial killer.
After Mike’s death, the nuns at my school were always sure to ask how my mom was doing. No one ever asked me how I was doing. It didn’t occur to me at the time that anyone should ask me. I was just a kid. Just before my mom passed last year, she said to me, “After Mike died, you were the one I didn’t worry about. You were so young, I knew you’d be fine.” I didn’t tell her I was not fine. I don’t know what being “fine” is. I do know that it’s best to not speak about most things. It’s best to take the emotional temperature of everyone in the room to find out how I am.
I’m not complaining. Although, I notice, when I speak my own truth, it sure does sound like I’m complaining. I’ve become very vocal about the experience of early trauma and loss because I have a mission. And if that means I need to tell people what it was like for me, I’m honored to put it out there.
I’m remembering and writing now, for an important reason. This is National Children’s Grief Awareness Month. National Alliance for Children's Grief (NACG) is asking us to “flip the script” on grief. The Healing Chickadee is a grief program that is designed to help families communicate in ways that support and nurture connection. It starts with language. Words have power. I often hear people lament, “I don’t know what to say!” when a death has occurred.
Especially to children.
Don’t- “Your brother wouldn’t want you to be so sad.” Try- “It’s ok if you are feeling sad. We can talk about it if you want.”
Don’t- “I completely get what you’re going through.” Try- “Grief is different for everyone. What has it been like for you?
Don’t “You must be so sad and really miss your person.” Try- “I don’t know what you are going through but I’m here to listen if you want to share.”
Oh Lord, Don’t---- “Everything happens for a reason.” Try- “When people die, it can leave a space in our life. What is something that can comfort you right now?
Here is a timely don’t- “ The holidays must be so hard for you.” Try- “I’m so happy to see you. I know holiday time can be hard. How are you?”
This one is pretty standard an fine, but we can do better than- “I’m sorry for your loss.” Try this instead- “I know there are no words to make it better. Just know that I’m here and want to support you however I can.”
The idea of “flip the script” on grief is to convey, “I hear you and I’m here for you.” Listen. Listen Listen. And if a child (or adult) wants to cry....Let them! Just be with them as the tears fall.
Please review my “mother ship” organization, NACG.org The National Alliance of Children’s Grief is an extraordinary organization that is doing tremendous work in the field of mental health.
Also, please consider an end of the year tax deductible donation to the Healing Chickadee. Review our website. We have sent hundreds of birds with words to families across the country. We were able to send fifty chickadee programs to Maui after the fire. The children’s grief center there has requested thirty more. YOUR donations keep the birds in the air!
Explore the websites and consider “flipping the script” on grief and helping us spread the seeds of compassion to kids everywhere!
YES! I want to make my year end tax deductible donation to help children in grief centers across the country! https://www.healingchickadee.com/donation