Hope through the Grief
Everyone has their own way of grieving. For some it is harder than others. For children – we can’t even begin to imagine. They have such a sense of innocence and wonder. How can they begin to comprehend the loss of a loved one?
Adults are often told that “this feeling won’t last forever” and “everything happens for a reason.” These proclamations aren’t going to make the grownups feel better and they certainly aren’t going to help children understand. This is something I had never thought of until today.
With places such as the Highmark Caring Place, children of all ages, and their parents are able to work through such distress together. It is funded by the Highmark Caring Foundation, which means their program is completely free of charge for families. My visit today through the Erie Ambassador Program opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about grief and about truly appreciating what I have.
Families embark on a ten week program, but are able to return to the Caring Place if need be. Upon entering the main meeting room for the program, there is a beautiful tree painted onto the wall. Each leaf has a child’s name written on it, so when new children arrive, they see that they are not alone in their pain. There are other children who have lost a father, a mother, sibling, or other loved one, which is further established when they begin to interact with the other children in their group.
Children are able to find comfort when discovering that they are not alone in their loss – that there are others going through the same feelings as they are. They connect with others when they understand that they have something in common. There are crafts, games, an expressions room, and various other activities to encourage the children to open up.
One of the most powerful events in today’s journey was taking a peek at the masks that some of the children create. On the outside of the mask, they paint how they think the world sees them. Lots of brilliant blues, yellows, and other bright, cheery colors could be seen on this side. But on the inside of the masks, they paint how they feel. Many of the masks were filled with dark colors on this side. Some had painted a broken heart and some of them had even painted tears.
We often wish for the energy, the excitement, and the sense of wonder that children bring to the world. But how could we take those in place of the great confusion that comes with the heartbreak of not knowing what happens to a loved one? Adults are able to have that balance, even if we do suffer from heartbreak, as well. Because at the least, we are able to understand that death is a part of life. It doesn’t make grief any simpler to deal with, but it does make it a little easier to understand.
Even through the eyes of a child, hope can be found through the grief. In all of the advertising done for the Highmark Caring Place, a broken heart and a blue butterfly can be seen. An eight-year-old boy in the program, who had lost his brother, drew this heart and said that his brother’s name will always reside in that broken part. He then drew a blue butterfly above the heart to symbolize all of the good memories of his sibling that he will forever hold inside of his heart.
Butterflies have often been said to represent loved ones that have passed.
We are not alone in our grief, and our children are not alone. It’s so important to know that hope can always be found even through the broken hearts. Always be thankful for every person, and every butterfly, in your life.