On February 29th, Fernside presented 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. This month we are sharing their insights into what helped them when they were newly bereaved and the advice they would give to a grieving child today.
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 did you find most helpful?
Looking back, the ability to just talk to someone without judgement or 'advice' and express my feelings. Also people who were just present in the moment of sadness and have that be okay. I didn't need someone to tell me how to experience or give me directions on where I was going; I just needed someone to walk with me while I took the journey. ~ Lauren Haar
For me, I found it most helpful to write. Still to this day, writing is the coping method I choose for anything I’m dealing with. I also didn’t like to talk about my loss, so instead of holding all my feelings and thoughts inside, I used writing as my outlet. It allowed me to let go of all the feelings within me in a way that I felt comfortable. ~ Nicci Stemler
It helped me to be around kids who were experiencing similar feelings as mine. Being in a support group whether at school or Fernside made a huge difference. Being around kids who were like me made me feel less alone. ~ Nicci Stemler
It helped me to be involved in activities that I enjoyed, such as sports and school clubs. Staying active and involved helped me cope with my feelings and worries. ~ Nicci Stemler
At Fernside I felt like I could tell other people my age how I really felt, when I sometimes felt I could not tell my family or friends. It ended up feeling like the only place I could be vulnerable, and connect with others and learn how to cope and find joy in moments. ~ Jillian Bennett
I very much found my mom telling me stories of my dad helpful. I asked my mom to tell me a story about my dad before bed. Occasionally now I will ask my mom to tell me something new about my dad. ~ Nicole Kotha
Fernside had a huge impact. It was great to be in a place where you don't feel so different and you aren't known as the girl whose mom died. ~ Mary Kate Fogarty
Talking about it helped. Despite being a stubborn child, thinking it was "below" me to talk about my feelings, I quickly found comfort and ease when I realized others have been suffering similar trauma in their life. ~ TJ Quinn
Finding support was helpful. I believe that Fernside is the reason I am so comfortable with asking for help when I need it. As the years passed, we built a system of people who wanted to support us in our journey. In doing so, we strengthened our family and were able to thrive once again. ~ Brad Cutter
I found that I had the most enjoyable experiences when people didn’t treat me differently because of my loss. ~ Tony Martino
When I got past my initial state of grief, the most helpful thing for me was openly talking about my grandpa with my family. Remembering and talking about him and his life with people who knew how I was feeling, and were missing the same person, helped with a lot of my anxieties.
~ Logan Davis
What advice would you give to a grieving child?
What you're going through might be really tough, but you don't have to do it alone if you don't want to. ~ Lauren Haar
Share your feelings as much as you can, and leave as little bottled up as possible. Letting your feelings out provides a lot of relief. ~ Alex Huschart
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Be patient with yourself. I think my biggest piece of advice is to know you aren’t alone. If you can, find ways to cope with your loss. Find what works for you – writing, drawing, painting, sports, talking, etc. You’ll have good days and bad days, but you’ll work through them. Stay strong and know things will get better. ~ Nicci Stemler
The main thing to remember is that you should be proud of the steps you are taking. ~ Jillian Bennett
Allow yourself to get back into daily activities. ~ Nicole Kotha
It won't always be so hard – time really will help. ~ Mary Kate Fogarty
Even though you have lost someone dear to you, the love that was shared between you and that person will always be there. It is so important to remember the good memories, to laugh about the funny times, and to feel the love that was shared. ~ Brad Cutter
There will be better days and there are going to be bad days too, and that’s okay. ~ Tony Martino
It’s completely normal to feel things like sadness, anxiety, or numbness. It is okay to want to talk about it, and it’s okay to not want to. Every feeling you are experiencing is valid, and they are nothing to hide or be ashamed of. You may never stop missing them, but it will get better.
~ Logan Davis
Be sure to read February’s Fernside Footnote, Part 1 of our All Grown Up & Talking About Grief series of blog posts. We wrap up the series next month sharing the advice our experts offer to parents and others caring for grieving children.