February 2, 2016
On February 29th (Leap Day) Fernside is presenting our 2016 Listen, Learn…Live Speaker Series, All Grown Up & Talking About Grief. Often parents raising grieving children worry if their child will be okay and we thought who better to offer reassurance and advice than those who came to Fernside when they were children and are now all grown-up! In preparation for the program, we reached out to our Fernside volunteers who are also Fernside alumni and asked them to answer a few questions about the challenges they faced as a grieving child, what helped them the most and what advice they would give to a grieving child and parent today. Over the next few months, we will share their invaluable insights with you.
Special thanks to our amazing Fernside contributors: Jillian Bennett, Brad Cutter, Logan Davis, Mary Kate Fogarty, Lauren Haar, Alex Huschart, Nicole Kotha, Tony Martino, TJ Quinn & Nicci Stemler!
What was the hardest part of being a grieving child/teen?
When my dad died, I was 7. I had no real idea that the thing that was happening to our family, didn't happen to everyone. The grief process was just a part of growing up in our house. For me, the most difficult part was getting a little bit older, realizing that my situation wasn't that common, and finding ways to remember and honor my dad's memory, while still living with the reality that he was gone.
I think the hardest part about being a grieving child/teen, for me, was that it took me a long time to really cope with my losses. I lost my brother in first grade and my dad in third grade, but I still grieved those losses as I continued to grow up.
The hardest part of being a grieving child was not fully understanding what was going on. I didn’t understand the concept of death nor why I lost someone that I loved. It was also very challenging to see the sadness all around me, to witness the change in my life, and learn to how to cope with such a loss. It was very hard transitioning from my “normal” life to this new life without my brother. I felt different and felt like people were treating me differently. It took a long time to adjust to school life, friends, family and the aspects of my life that included my brother. It was also very hard to think about the future and ponder the “what-ifs”. Feeling lost and fearing the future were another two major things that I found the hardest.
Also, learning a new day-to-day routine was hard. Also, I felt going back to school was hard, my classmates treated me differently. School was one of the few constants in my life but it did not feel the same afterwards.
For me, I felt somewhat isolated from my peers because most kids have no concept of that kind of grief. I felt like I was an outsider. A lot of the time I resented that I didn't get to have a more naive outlook on life as a kid – you end up growing up much faster than you want to.
The hardest part for me, was simply realizing I wasn't physically able to share any more moments with my dad for the rest of my life.
In my experience, missing out on father-son experiences was the hardest part. I started to miss the simple things, like sitting on the porch talking about airplanes, watching scary movies and helping with yard work. As the years passed, these experiences of "missing out" made me feel different from all of the other kids.
I moved to a new city right after they passed and the lack of stability was especially tough. I'd say overall the hardest part about being a grieving child is the confusion about what comes next. Questions like, How will I deal with...? What will this event (Christmas, Easter, Birthdays) be like without them?
Be sure to check back in March to read what our Fernside teen and young adult contributors found most helpful!