A child’s reaction to death is predicated upon his or her experiences in life. Losing favorite toys, moving away from friends or the death of pets, serve to strengthen a child’s inner fortitude while they are growing into their teenage years and adulthood. Although these experiences can be upsetting, with a strong and loving family structure, a child may overcome these setbacks and emerge a stronger person. These same disappointments and setbacks, suffered in childhood, prepare children to face even greater tragedies such as betrayal, deception and the death of loved ones as they mature. (Tracy Renee Lee, Mourning Glory 2014)
Considering the above statement, one can see that disappointments in childhood are important and necessary. The problem is that parents cannot bear to see their children experience them. I think that is why grandparents are so important. Although a grandparent suffers when their grandchildren suffer disappointments and setbacks, they approach these experiences differently than when they were parents. The gift of life has taught the grandparents the value of pain and disappointment. They have an appreciation for the strengths these experiences leave as their aftermath. Parents, on the other hand, will often strive to obliterate the pain experience for their children.
Hypothetically, let us say a child has a pet that they love. Perhaps the pet was a gift two years ago for Christmas and has become the child’s constant companion. They play together; they sleep together, and their friendship is based on love for each other. Now let us say the pet is hit by a car and dies. Many parents will not be able to endure the pain their child is suffering; he or she may run out and buy a new pet to replace the old one. A natural reaction and kind gesture, albeit misdirected. In an attempt to make things better, the parent has taught the child that the object of their love and affection, the pet, is easily replaced by redirecting their love to another. This is a dangerous method of coping in life. This path of replacement or redirection when one feels pain often leads to self-medicating or over indulgence. If this path is followed throughout the child’s life, drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide are often the spoils that overtake their adult years.
A grandparent, in the same scenario, would most likely nurture the grandchild through the duration of their experience, teaching sound principles of loss and recovery. You see, the grandparent has suffered many losses of loved ones and recognizes the opportunity for their grandchild to learn the pain of grief, and accompanying road toward recovery, in baby steps. In so teaching, the grandparent instills core strengths in his or her grandchild’s ability to cope with life and its many disappointing experiences. The grandparent allows the child to grieve, yet offers comfort, love and solace to help them through their grief until the relief of recovery is realized. In so doing, the next death experienced by the child is a little easier to bear, as the steps toward recovery have already been taught.
Not all parents and not all grandparents react in this way. However, the fact remains that we all want to relieve the suffering of those we love. Regrettably, pain is a fact of life. We will all suffer our fair share of trials and tribulations. It is best, however, if we realize early on that painful experiences prepare us for the unbearable ones in our future.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.