For those of you who have been following my posts on how to help children (and ultimately, ourselves) stay connected to loved ones who have died, here are my final musings on the topic. Again, the quotes come from the article, "Forever After. Helping children re-connect with loved ones who die" by Shea Darian (Lilipoh Magazine, Spring 2012). Darian's next suggestion from the article:
6. Messages from beyond. A child may experience waking visions, intensely real memories or imaginations, or particularly potent dreams of a loved one who dies days, months or even years after death. Such experiences are common--for children & adults, alike--and are markedly different than debilitating hallucinations experienced by those struggling with mental illness. ...Family members can jot on a calendar or write entries in a collective journal about the signs, messages or remembrances that come. This can help a child ... know that their tendencies to communicate with a loved one after death are not childish or "crazy."
Although our experiences have not taken place in the form of visions or in a dream state, we have had several unique "touch-ins" from Andrea. These, too, have provided immense comfort.
7. Inspiring presence. Each time we encounter an experience for the first time after a loved one dies, we often revisit the depths of grief and become keenly aware of the loved one's absence--the empty seat at the table, the phone that doesn't ring. ...A simple gesture to invite a loved one to be present in spirit is to choose a special memorial candle that can be lit in honor of the loved one. Light it as a daily remembrance, when a young person is struggling, on holidays, or for life passage events such as losing a tooth, learning to ride a bike, attending the first day of school, graduation, leaving home, getting married or giving birth.
One of the reasons that I struggled for years with attending family gatherings, especially at holidays, was because there was rarely a mention of those who were no longer with us, especially our daughter. Lighting a candle, making a toast, or sharing a brief memory in her and others' honor would have made the gathering far more bearable for me.
Darian ends her article with these wise words:
Reconnecting with a loved one who dies is the journey of a lifetime. Guiding children ... to reconnect with friends and relatives who die can bring meaning, comfort and hope to the daily round and to all of life's changes. Day in and day out, we can discover and rediscover with our children that our loved ones are a part of us--forever after.
Wishing you well on this "journey of a lifetime" and sending blessings until next time,