Welcome to 2014. With a new year comes expectations that it will be a better year than the last, more productive, more settled, less challenging in that 2013 yucky way. I’m just as guilty, I had these expectations too – it’s just that God, the universe…had other ideas. To be honest it still feels like 2013 with all it’s devastation, pain, turmoil and terrible luck. This past week feels like a train wreck really and I can’t for the life of me see beneath the rubble – but I’m flexing my muscles and doing my best to clear it, whilst taking an inventory as I go along.
From the very beginning my week looked much like the bottom of a mudpit. It started with someone spewing their insecurities all over my good mood and intention for the coming change of calendar. With each tick on the clock it worsened – without breaching confidentiality I can just tell you that sometimes it just plain sucks being a nurse, enough to make me question my career choice just a bit. The entire week followed the same pattern and each day saw me sink deeper and deeper into the mudpit awaiting me. Just as I dawn on the weekend and things start looking amazing – in fact during this heat wave we have had mummy pulls out the spiraliser and we make lengthy strands of raw carrot, zucchini and squash. Terribly fun by the way…and tasty too. Then I get the call….yep the call.
I answer my phone and am asked to leave my child’s immediate area and as I do and the conversation continues infall in a heap on the bed as I realise I am going to have to break some terrible news to my child. At this stage I am not going into details of when, why, how, who or what…because it isn’t necessary. Lets just say that from that phone call on, both my daughter and I have barely been able to stop crying…even the smallest things will set us off. At 13 she is far too young to deal with this grief, and yet she must. She must face it head on, wrestle with it and move on. So what about grief?
Well they say that grief follows 5 stages:
1. Denial “no way, never happened”
2. Anger “unfair. Bring me the person at fault”
3. Bargaining “what if? I can do this and it won’t have happened”
4. Depression “no food, no company, tears are my only friend”
5. Acceptance “this has happened but I’m okay”
Nice little equation isn’t it? Would be terribly nice if we could just follow protocol, then we could know what to do and when to do it. So what has this equation taught me about teenage grief? Nothing! Zilch! Nada! Zip! As I navigate with my teenage daughter the road of grief I can tell you that this equation does nothing and provides no comfort to us. What has happened has sent us all in a whir and we just hold on for the ride when we can.
So how do you comfort a grieving teen?
Well firstly you scrap the formula – there is nothing teenagers hate more than to be put in some structured idea, in fact they find it somewhat condescending.
Then you remember that once upon a time she used to be your little girl, and that certain things worked wonders in calming her fears and tears.
You also recognise that sometimes the best counsellor is actually their peers (with some debriefing from mum of course), because let’s face it – different era, different ideas. Their peers are going through stuff too and remember that when we are going through the tough stuff all any of us want to feel for others is a simple and quiet “me too”.
You take back some of the mummy role…tickle their face, stroke their hair, lie beside them and cry with them, listen and don’t interrupt. Hug, cuddle and hug again. Talk about it. And never say AT LEAST, it’s like telling them their grief is invalid.
Get them involved in a related project. My teen is working on an inspired board…something that will encompass important things.
How’s it working? Pretty well I would say, but she will steer the ship and I will just be the added muscle for any sharp turns ahead. Life still feels unfair. We are still crying. But we do it together.
So don’t forget to hug your loved ones, embrace differences, say your sorry when you should, forgive when you can, and remember how short life can be……..