Born Grievers, Born Healers

Creating Healing Environments for the Grieving Child

Grief. It’s as much a part of us as blood and bones. We humans are grievers to the core. We love and cherish, and we lose what we love and cherish – through death, divorce, conflict, illness, injury, trauma, financial woes, loss of home or homeland… Even so, few of us make it to adulthood with more than a vague idea about how to heal our grief-related pain or help our children to heal theirs. 

Myths and misunderstandings about grief abound. We often attempt to organize grief to control the chaos of our pain. We prescribe stages or phases of grief (that don’t exist), and limit the grieving period to 3 months, 6 months, a year… We say that time heals grief, and sometimes it may. But a grief-striking loss may be so disruptive to life as we know it that we carry grief within us for the rest of our days. Even in good times, grief may simmer just beneath the surface of our consciousness. 

Fortunately, from birth to death, we humans gain monumental capacities for healing grief. Babies, toddlers, and children have massive potential as healers of their own grief-related pain. Grief isn’t something we can protect children from, nor can we heal the grief that ails them. Healing grief is something a child learns to do for themselves. So, as intimate caregivers, the best we can do is to create environments for our children in which they become their own best healers. But first, we have to know a little something about grief and grieving, so we understand how the nurturing environments we create help a child to heal….(Read more in the LifeWays North America NewsletterSummer 2022)

Published by Shea

Shea Darian, M.Div. is a family and grief educator, spiritual care provider, and award-winning author of Doing Grief in Real Life (Nautilus Award; IPPY Award) and Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day. Shea is the creator of the Model of Adaptive Grieving Dynamics, published in the journal Illness, Crisis & Loss, Vol. 22(3), 2014. Books on family spirituality include Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child's Spiritual Life (Foreword Book of the Year Award) and Living Passages for the Whole Family: Celebrating Rites of Passage from Birth to Adulthood (Nautilus Award; Next Generation Indie Book Awards).