My first reaction when I know something is going to be painful for my child is to protect them from it. While that is true for some things (that they are just too young) I also know that pain is part of their life experiences, pain is the price we pay for a meaningful rich life and pain is not always a bad thing. We label pain, fear, guilt, sadness, awkwardness, and grief as bad feelings. And that our children should be happy and positive all the time or they are being unpleasant and bad. But we are given pain, sorrow, and uncomfortableness as learning lessons, as gifts to help us know the value of living. It is an honor to love something so much that it is painful when it is no longer there. We are so blessed to have such richness in our lives that we feel its loss deeply for a while. It is my goal to not to rob my children of the beautiful pain that is rightfully theirs. This is their life’s journey to.
We have such a special opportunity while our children are young to share in their sorrow and pain and guide them through it so they will be better equipped and educated to face the hard times ahead of them. They will know that the sorrow will pass and appreciate the meaning behind the pain. They will be more comfortable in their pain and work through it instead of finding ways to numb it. They will be more emotionally smart and couragous. Emotional maturity starts from childhood and I as a parent am responsible for teaching them how to honor their feelings and not be afraid of them.
Kids can handle more than we believe they can. Along side our guidance and love we can trust children to grieve, to be sad for a while and to be uncomfortable in their feelings. Feeling pain due to loss or disappointment is not the same as depression and other medical conditions that need professional help. But pain and loss are a natural part of the life experience for everyone even children.
My son has had a beloved cat named Brookings since he was only five years old. The bond they had and the love they shared was something I have never seen before. It opened my eyes to the special bond and healing power humans can have with animals. My sweet boy took amazing care of that cat all its life including when it got hit by a car and had cast on its legs. At only eight years old my son cleaned after his cat several times a day when it could not even move from its bed, and brought it water and food. He was never asked once or reminded once to take care of his cat. That was his baby. And in return that cat was there for him everyday when school was too much. There were many times when my little boy cried into his pets fur instead of my shoulder. I loved that cat to. He was heaven sent. My husband and I dreaded the day that Brookings would inevitably pass away. How would our son make it through such a tragedy? He would surely break! Well, That cat did die. The cat was seven years old and died a long agonizing death despite vet help to get his immune system back up. I wish the cat would have just taken a long walk out into a field and not come back like so many other cats do. But no, he went the hardest way a cat could go. And he died in my eleven year olds arms. It was tragic, and unbelievably heart breaking but it was also so beautiful to watch my son care and love his beloved pet to the very last moment. I encouraged him when he asked if he should be holding his cat while his breath got more shallow and we knew the end was coming fast. I let him wrap his cat is a favorite baby blanket of his before he buried him in our yard. And the next day I let him pick out the plant that we planted over his cats body. We call that plant Brookings. “Hey, did you remember to water Brookings today?” Is heard many times throughout the summer months.
My sons grief, while huge, did not break him. Yes it was extremely hard for the first few days and there were many moments after that when his love and loss for his fur-baby brought back the grief. But if you ask this child of mine if his cats death was too much for a child to handle he would look at you funny. Because he knows and has always known that the small amount of pain and grief he has felt was just a symbol of how wonderful it was having Brookings in his life. Children get it. Its parents that struggle to get it.
So how can we help our children be more emotionally educated and have courage to embrace sorrow and pain? We are there to give our kids a safe home and environment to feel life’s pain, not take it away from them. We also try not to distract our kids from uncomfortable feelings with fun activities, treats, gifts and jokes. We help them find meaning in the feelings. We ask them lots of questions and engage in meaningful conversations about the event that is causing discomfort. And we absolutely number one don’t act like it never happened. One of the worst things we can do is act like it never happened because we want to avoid sad feelings. There is nothing wrong with sad feelings. It is such a dishonor to that feeling, event or person to act as if it never existed. The more you talk about it the more you normalize that sad event and then it doesn’t have to be sad anymore. Its been two years since our beloved Brookings died and we talk about him all the time. We remember him with joy and sadness and most importantly gratitude. We are even to a point now where we are starting to look at possible new kittens to come into our home. We are signing up for the pain and joy all over again because its worth it. This is life and we will not rob anyone from it.
“Perhaps it’s human nature: We want to shield our children from pain, and what we get instead is life and heartache and lessons that bring us to our knees. Sooner or later we are handed the brute, necessary curriculum of surrender, we have no choice, then but to bow our heads and learn. We struggle to accept that our children’s destinies are not ours to write, their battles not ours to fight, their bruises not ours to bear, nor their victories ours to take credit for.”Katrina Kenison
SHARE THIS STORY