Myth 5 – Keep Busy
Let’s return to the mom from our first story – Monkey see Monkey do.
This time it relates to her five-year-old daughter. This brings us to another loss- related myth. Well-meaning family and friends had advised the mom to keep busy. Mom had become a beehive of activity. She scheduled herself into a frazzle, with the erroneous notion that the busier she was, the less she would feel the pain.
The keep busy myth is so commonplace that we doubt there’s a person who hasn’t heard it countless times following all kinds of losses.
In this case, it was the five-year old daughter who copied her mother’s nonverbal communication and turned into a miniature whirling dervish. Although she had never been a particularly tidy little girl, she was now a junior Ms. Clean. She seemed to move at the same frenetic pace as her mom, as if somehow all that activity could help her not feel the pain in her heart. So, another major incorrect tool, “keep busy” had been passed on to the little girl.
Leaving aside the children for a moment, we can’t begin to tell you how many widows and widowers have told us how exhausted they were as they tried to follow the advice of “keeping busy” that comes at them all sides. Well-meaning friends and family, as well as clergy and therapists, counsel others to keep busy, having no idea how harmful such advice can be.
Grief, caused by death or by divorce, probably represents the largest change in the moment-to-moment life of a child.
Adapting to life without someone who has always been there can be painful, difficult and confusing. We grieve the change in everything that is familiar. Since the loss itself represents a massive change, we do not think it’s a good idea for a child to make a lot of additional changes while still struggling with the upheaval caused by the loss. If the child was not a busy type of person before the loss, then becoming buy creates another huge change for the child to accommodate. And this is exactly what the child does not need: more changes. On the other hand, if the child was always a busy type, if busy is familiar, then we would not encourage any change in that style.
Imagine that this little five-year-old was her daddy’s little princess. She had to have been crushed by his death. But, at five, she may have a very limited understanding of death. Her father’s death created an unimaginable crisis for her, one for which she had no point of reference, no tools, no skills. She did have an incredible amount of emotional energy, the normal and natural reactions to her daddy’s death. All she could do is watch her mom, and copy her mom: consequently, all that emotional energy was diverted into cleaning and keeping busy.
The good news . ..
The good news for the little girl, and her sister and brother, was the fact that Mom called The Grief Recovery Institute very shortly after her husband’s death. As Mom got help from the Institute, she was able to guide her children. We are pleased to tell you that Mom and the three children are doing well, even though all of their lives were forever altered by the death.
A Dangerous Illusion
Keeping busy, in addition to being exhausting, can create a dangerous illusion. The illusion is that, as you throw yourself into activity, and days, weeks, and even months pass, you have actually done something constructive to deal with the unfinished emotions that are naturally attached to death, divorce and other losses.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All you have accomplished is to distract yourself from the pain caused by the loss, and, in the process, there is a high probability that you have buried the emotions further out of sight.
But the emotions of grief are powerful. They do not fade away so easily. You have probably known people who will talk about events from thirty, forty or fifty years ago with an emotional pain that makes it sound as if it happened yesterday, You can stay busy all day, but when you finally stop and lie down at night, you’re liable to fin the same pain in your heart that was there yesterday and the day before.
In this regard, children and adults are identical. Keeping busy doesn’t have any more positive value for them than it does for adults. Children may be a little more honest, more willing to tell you they are still hurting. Please listen to them. Don’t encourage them to steamroller over their feelings just because you may have adopted the myth about keeping busy a long time ago.
From the book. . When Children Grieve written by John W James and Russell Friedman with Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews
There is help . .
If you are interested in participating in the Renew Your Possibility – As Children Grieve 6 week Study group, sign up here.
This is a complimentary study group that will provide you some incredibly valuable safety tips and tools that you will be able to use for the rest of your life and your children’s lives. I guarantee it.
Or, if you are not ready to take that step, purchase the book “When Children Grieve here . .
Or download one of the ebooks under the resources page and read up on grief.
Another option is to Schedule a 15 minute complimentary call to share what your experiencing so you can ask me questions.
Just take that first step. Do something that you have not done before. It’s ok, that your not ok, yet please don’t stay stuck in grief. There is light on the other side.
Remember, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Plato
Yours in Gratitude and to Renewing Your Possibility. . .
Debbie Your Grief Recovery Specialist®