Children - the forgotten mourners

Social isolation is a major danger for people coping with a suicide death, says Mariel Forde Clarke, an holistic and spiritual teacher/trainer. Photograph by Mike Shaughnessy.

Social isolation is a major danger for people coping with a suicide death, says Mariel Forde Clarke, an holistic and spiritual teacher/trainer. Photograph by Mike Shaughnessy.

When a loved one dies children are sometimes unintentionally left out of the grieving process. Families, too shocked and devastated by the passing of a family member, may not even be aware of how much a child is suffering.

Children often do not know how to make their needs known or to articulate loss, according to Galway woman Mariel Forde Clarke, an holistic and spiritual teacher/trainer who will hold a two day workshop on loss and grieving entitled Loved ones - A whisper away with her psychotherapist husband Iggy Clarke on May 6 and 7. The event will take place from 10am to 5.30pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Croi Nua Spirituality Centre in Taylor’s Hill.

“Children do not have the resources or experiences to integrate loss into their worlds,” she says. “In their minds they often fill in gaps with thoughts like: ‘It must somehow be my fault’. Unfortunately a child’s interpretation is so illogical and irrational that adults never even think of it as a possibility.”

Children may also lack the ability to verbalise their emotions. “Since their lives are just beginning how can we expect them to understand life’s endings? Often the one person with whom they could most easily discuss their personal feelings is the one who has died, and sometimes the person who should be shepherding them through their loss is the surviving parent who is too often lost in their own grief. “

Children grieve differently to adults, she says. “Unlike adults they don’t stop and give you their full attention. They may be fiddling with something while you talk but don’t mistake this for not listening or caring.”

She believes people have a responsibility to talk to children about grief. The way in which they experience early loss will be replayed on many occasions in their lives. “It may determine how safe the world feels, what their friendships are like, and how their romantic relationships play out.”

Helping children keep the memory of their loved ones alive is one of the simplest ways to assist them in their grieving, says Mariel who has been involved in holistic and spiritual work for 25 years. A master teacher/trainer she has studied with Deepak Shopra, an expert in the field of mind/body healing, James Van Praagh, a spiritual medium, Dr Brian Weiss, a US psychiatrist who specialises in past life regression, and the Diana Cooper Foundation, which offers teacher training in spiritual growth and angels.

There are a number of techniques that can be used to facilitate the grieving process in children, she says. These include the following:-

Sacred Place

Select an area in the child’s bedroom that will be (the name of the loved one’s ) special place to “visit the child” when he/she feels lonely and sad. A small table against a wall and a little chair is all you need. Allow the child to select one or more favourite photographs of his/her loved one and display them on the table or wall. Place some item of clothing or an object the child associates with them on the chair. These items will still carry their loved one’s energy and makes it easier for them to extend his/her energy into the physical realm, Mariel believes.

Special telephone

Buy an inexpensive telephone in a style and colour that is different from the telephones in the rest of the house. Place this in the child’s room in the sacred place. The phone is a very effective tool to help the child connect with their loved one. Tell the child this is their very special telephone just for talking to mommy/daddy. Tell them all they have to do is lift the phone and say: “Hello mommy/daddy, this is (their own name ) and I miss you and want to talk to you.” The child will hear, see and experience the loved one much more fully than adults who have shut down their natural connections to the higher vibrational energy realm, she maintains.

Letter writing

Encourage the child to write (to their loved one ) about things he/she has been doing at school or with the family. Letter writing is for the child’s benefit and it can help him/her to activate his energy connection to the loved one and gives him/her an easy way to express thoughts and feelings that the child may not feel comfortable telling someone else. Assure the child that their love one will not be angry or upset by anything they write in the letters and to say everything they are thinking and feeling – even if that was not the case when the loved one was in physical form.

Drawing or painting pictures

Children can make a special drawing or picture for their loved one. Many children will instinctively draw or paint their true feelings. The drawings and paintings will reflect any negative emotions the child had been feeling and allow them to release these. After the child has released any negative emotions through the pictures, encourage them to draw or paint the name of their loved one, as the child’s very special guardian angel.

Family hour

Set a time set aside on a regular basis for a “family hour” - where children are encouraged to share ideas and experiences with each other and with the adults in the family. When the family has experienced a loved one’s passing, the family hour can be a very effective way to include them in the family unit.

Mariel outlines that children’s reactions to the death of a parent depends on how they were raised before the death occurred. If parents have no fear of death, if they have shared with them, for example, the death of a pet or a grandparent, and if they have been allowed to participate in the care of the dying parent at home and also to go the funeral, then they will have few problems accepting death.

She describes the grief experienced by people affected by a suicide death as a special type of grief. “There is a sense of guilt and anger but also shame,” she says. “Families are left with a feeling of enormous stigma around suicide and so few talk about it.”

Social isolation is a major danger with this type of loss. “We are left with part of their pain as well as our own. This produces the kind of grief we don’t often share. The isolation leads to a lack of the very support systems that may be so helpful to our healing. It cannot be stressed enough that people grieving the death of those who take their own lives need as much support as anyone else in grief. If you can’t find a specific support group, join a bereavement group.”

Healing after a loved one’s suicide is complicated: before you work through the grief, you must work through the guilt, she states. “You must come to a place where you understand logically that you are not responsible for someone else taking their own life. You will need to find a space inside you to be sad and sorry and to build a new relationship with your loved one without clinging to how the person died or definining their life by their death.”

Mariel Forde Clarke says she has believes from her extensive studies with many renowned teachers that death is not the end and no-one dies alone.

“Through my own personal experience and over 25 years research, the proof of heaven, an afterlife is available to us. Dr Van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist, studied patients who had been pronounced clinically dead. He was astonished that in cases where patients’ brain activity had ceased they were able to give full accounts of a place they ventured into, a guiding presence, and how they were told it was not their time yet.

“Dr Iben Alexander, a neurosurgeon in Boston, had a near death experience which profoundly changed his life. In 2008 he was struck down with a rare form of meningitis and lay in a coma for seven days. His medical colleagues gave him no hope of survival. However on day seven he woke from his coma and gradually recounted his journey into a God consciousness while on the other side. So profound was the impact of his experience that he wrote the book Proof of Heaven.

The two day Loved Ones - A Whisper Away workshop costs €175 and will feature a number of topics, including:-

• Scientific research that no-one dies alone

• The spiritual journey of the soul

• What happens when we die

• Healing after a loved one’s suicide

• Saying goodbye - how to heal the grief

• Finding a level of closure and moving forward in peace and grace

• The scientific, medical and spiritual proof of an afterlife.

To book a place at the workshop telephone Mariel at (087 ) 9185421 or Iggy at (087 ) 2609607 or (091 ) 790863.

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