Dealing with Loss
PART II (continued)
Helping children live in the present and memorialize
what they have lost
22. Know that children need and want to
live their own lives.
If your children have participated in sports and active play all
along, they are likely to benefit from continuing to do so now. In fact,
vigorous physical activity may be even more valuable for them now than
in the past, because of its effectiveness in reducing anxiety, lessening
physical tension, and providing the opportunity for having fun.
Similarly, other activities that have been important
in your family's life are probably just as important for your children
now. Such activities as drawing and painting, sculpture, crafts, creative
writing, dance, and vocal or instrumental music can provide welcome
opportunities for self-expression. For many children, pet care, gardening,
computer games, and even household chores may provide access to comforting
and familiar routines. Participation in youth organizations, school
clubs, religious groups, and similar activities for young people can
help your children continue to interact appropriately with friends and
23. Pay particular attention to the children's school life.
Because school is such an important part of your children's lives, talk
with their teachers and other school professionals. Together, you and
they can decide how they might best be helpful and supportive.
For many children who are in the process of adjusting
to the reality of divorce, it is appropriate to plan for and accept
a somewhat lower level of academic performance. For others, this may
be a suitable time to offer additional support and to expect an increased
commitment to school life. For some, a change in school is unavoidable.
All of these school-related matters deserve discussion
with your children and with school personnel. Involvement by other professionals
may be appropriate as well, especially if there is a striking deterioration
in schoolwork, or if your children become fearful of attending school.
24. Create ways for you and your children to memorialize what you
Rituals serve to help people express authentic feelings in a formal
way, usually in the presence of others.
For example, a formal saying "goodbye" to the family
as it existed previously provides an opportunity for the children to
express their understanding of what has been lost, to express their
feelings in the present, and to articulate their wishes for the future.
It can help all of the family members move toward freeing themselves
from unrecognized inclinations to punish (or please) one another mindlessly,
and become better able to go on to write the next chapter of their lives
as a family unit, and as individuals.
Such permanent physical constructions as photo albums,
bulletin boards, and memory boxes can play a useful role, too, in grief
work. Making memories concrete, and thus locating them in time and place,
can help keep them in perspective as the children grow, and can help
all the people involved protect themselves from the inevitable temptations
to demonize (or sanctify) one another.
Finally, the calendar's special days deserve special
attention: traditional holidays, individual birthdays, family anniversaries.
By involving the children in making plans and carrying them out, you
can help them live fully in the present as they honor the past, welcome
the future, and experience, repeatedly, your love for them.
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