By Yvonne Williams
I wish for you a good mourning! Please notice carefully the word mourning in what I just said to you. I am not giving you a greeting for a nice day by saying, "Good morning." The word "morning" meaning the first part of day, sounds like "mourning," which has a different meaning. Mourning (spelled with a "u") means doing things to show grief for something or someone very dear to us that we have lost forever, as in death.
Many children are afraid or embarrassed to show their feelings about a death in their family. Some think that if they let out their feelings, it might make others feel too sad or maybe make them angry. Another reason that children are uncomfortable showing their feelings about a death is that it makes them look different from their friends who have not had a death in their family.
Children who stuff their feelings inside themselves often end up getting into arguments with friends or family members. That is because whenever someone we love dies, it causes a lot of energy to come up inside of us. If we do not put that energy to use in good ways of mourning, it will force its way out, often in terrible fits of temper.
The only way to start feeling better after someone we love dies, is to let out our feelings in good ways of mourning. I am going to tell you about two good ways of mourning and I would like to see if you and your family can think of others.
- Think of something you would like to say to the person who died if they could hear you. Write it on a piece of paper and take it and some Kleenex with you on a little trip. The first stop is a store near where you live that sells helium balloons. Buy one and tie your message on the end of the string. The next step depends on whether your loved one was buried or cremated. If buried, go to the grave in the cemetery. If cremated, go to some place that you used to go and have a good time with the one who died. This might be a playground, a picnic area, a ball field or a lake where you went swimming or boating. Take some quiet time to remember things. It is perfectly okay to cry if you feel like it. That is why you brought the Kleenex. When you feel like the time is right, let go of the balloon. First, make sure that you are in an open area away from trees. Watch the balloon rise until it is out of sight, and think of something for which you are very thankful. Now it will be time to go home.
- Invite your family to do a mourning ritual with you. Gather around a table with a candle in the center. If you are too young to light the candle, let an adult do it. After the candle is lit, everyone thinks about two things to share out loud with the rest. The first is a sad memory to pour out of your heart or something that still worries you about the death. (To have a "good mourning," one must get out all kinds of feelings.) The second thing to think about and share is a happy memory about the one who died--something that will always make you happy or laugh when you think about it. When everyone is ready with their two memories or thoughts to share, take turns telling what they are. After everyone is finished talking and no one has anything else they want to say or ask, decide on someone (or more than one) to blow out the candle. As the smoke begins to rise, someone may read the following closing for the ritual:
As the smoke rises from this candle,
We remember that the spirit of our loved one
is gone from the body to travel a new journey
that we are not ready to take.
It is time for us to follow the Journey of Life.
We leave this table in celebration
of our life together
as a family.
Your family might want to make it even more of a celebration by having some refreshments now or going out somewhere together to have some fun. Whatever you do, please have a good mourning!
NOTE TO PARENTS: If adults hide their grief or try to ignore it, it makes it all the more difficult for children to believe that their feelings are normal and acceptable. Neither children nor adults begin to feel different or better until they pour out the feelings and thoughts that overwhelm them like a flood when death occurs. Mourning rituals are marvelous aids in doing this and even very simple rituals can be effective. The two rituals described here are ones that you may participate in with your child.