Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. C.S. Lewis, author
Death and dying are difficult topics to discuss but honest discussion is critical for our well being. As I interviewed women who had lost their mothers, one of the most important recovery factors was honesty from the father and other caregivers. Secret-keeping was one of the most destructive.
Darcy Krause, Executive Director at Uplift Center for Grieving Children, writes, “Clinicians consistently emphasize the importance of relaying accurate, honest information to a child about a parent or loved one’s illness in terms the child can understand developmentally. This lays the groundwork for the child’s healthy grief processing.”
Perhaps you experienced the damaging affects of secret-keeping. Now, it’s your turn. You can change this destructive family dynamic and have open dialogue with your loved ones on this important topic.
Affirmation: I speak opening about death and dying.
Coaching questions: What’s your experience around death and dying discussions? How were/are you affected? What do you want to change (if anything)? How might open dialogue make a difference in your family?
Photo by Abi Lewis on Unsplash
Currently helping my kid make a Get Well Card for the Tooth Fairy who is having wing surgery…again. Tweet from a creative, forgetful dad
One of my granddaughters, Natalie, almost six, recently lost her first tooth. Her Aunt Katie made her a tooth fairy pillow and money was left in it while she slept. I must admit, when my children were young, I didn’t make a big deal out of the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny…I hope I didn’t stunt my children. They seem ok. I did leave money under their pillows for those tiny teeth but I also told them the truth when they asked and they asked early.
Magical thinking has its place when it comes to these magical childhood characters. However, magical thinking has no place when it comes to the truth about death, especially when talking to children. As I talk with daughters about their childhood memories regarding mother loss, many describe the damage done to them from lack of communication, untruths, and secrets surrounding death.
Affirmation: I tell the truth about death.
Coaching questions: Are you prepared to answer your child’s questions about death? How have you been empowered by the truth?
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004), Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death, grief studies and author
- Have no secrets – tell the truth, talk about your experience, use real words, acknowledge reality
- Get outside of yourself – serve others, volunteer
- Use affirmations – affirm yourself and your progress, state what you want and how you want to be
- Connect to a community – find others (on line or in person) who have had a similar experience
- Seek therapy – don’t try to recover on your own if you’re struggling
- Be kind to yourself – honor your individual grief process, your anger, and your guilt
- Honor the person you have lost by working your way back to living life to the fullest
Affirmation: I have found my way out of the depths.
Coaching questions: If you’ve experienced loss, what tips might work for you? What will you do today to implement your choice? What difference might it make?
With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not. Sara Gruen, author, Water for Elephants
Secrecy is a common denominator in families where tragedy has struck. The C-word is never mentioned, photos are put away, death is not discussed, the unspoken agreement is “don’t ask, don’t tell” where everyone is expected to act as if nothing happened.
After talking with motherless daughters who grew up in this type of environment, I’ve come to believe that the secrecy was as much of a problem as the actual death of their mother. Silence increased their feelings of shame, especially if their mother died when they were young and there was no opportunity to process their experience by openly acknowledging their mother’s existence and their profound loss.
Affirmation: I’m an open person.
Coaching questions: What are your family’s secrets? How have they affected you?
Hiding, secrets, and not being able to be yourself is one of the worst things ever for a person. It gives you low self-esteem. You never get to reach that peak in your life. You should always be able to be yourself and be proud of yourself. Grace Jones, singer songwriter, supermodel, record producer, actress
Secrecy is very common in families where there has been a tragedy. The C-word is never mentioned, death is not discussed, the unspoken agreement is “don’t ask, don’t tell” where everyone is expected to act as if nothing happened. After talking with motherless daughters who grew up in this environment, I’ve come to believe that the secrecy was as much of a problem as the actual death of their mother. Silence increased their feelings of shame, especially if their mother died when they were young and they didn’t have an opportunity to process their experience by openly acknowledging their mother’s existence and their profound loss.
Families that have open discussions, answering any and all questions, who talk about the deceased mother and her cause of death, create a healthy environment for the motherless daughter where she can flourish and feel worthy rather than less-than.
Affirmation: I create an open and honest environment for my family.
Coaching questions: How have family secrets kept you from becoming your best self? What will you do about it? What difference will it make? Be specific.