At this time of immense sorrow and tragic loss, much is written about the sadness and despair. Yet, the prevailing initial feeling such a loss is anxiety. The sheer terror that your loved one is gone - never to hold, never to wipe a tear from a sweet little face and never to tuck in at bed at night. It is that absolute fear of loss of touch, loss of being-ness together in your own home, in your community and in our world.
This anxiety is a complete body response to loss. As someone who was widowed rather young, I can share that it is your body that first needs time, before your heart can do the work of mourning. It is remembering to breathe, to stare ahead, to put your two feet on the ground in the morning when you crawl out of bed. It is having a friend remind you to take a drink of water or place a blanket on your shoulders as the shudders of grief pass through your body. It is that panic that oftentimes places you in a frozen position, which may make it look like you are ok to the outside world. For in the anxiety of grief, there is often no tears, more like cry outs of sorrows - the gasp breaking that reality that you are here, and your loved one is not. It is this vocalization that reminds of the present - and the reality, at this time, our lives are lived only minute to minute. Bereavement is a physical process - often with anxiety and shock first.
Of course, this is the picture of grief in the world of adult loss and bereavement. So, it is important to remember that in the world of children's grief process there is laughter, play and tantrums. The child's anxiety of grief and fear comes at bedtime, in nightmares and at times of transition. Know, too, that their bereavement is a physical process.
So, to help - don't expect tears all the time. Know that grief is a physical process first. Remind loved ones to drink water, put their feet on the ground and to lean on you. Encourage children to play as needed and offer hand-held comfort toys, like the teddy bears, to help hold them to this moment. For that is all we have - and to breathe in the moment and breathe out sorrow.