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Help with Grieving
Q: My mother passed away recently and I'm concerned about the effects on my 13-year-old son. He was especially close to his grandma, but hasn't expressed any emotion over the event. I know grief is a personal thing and each person grieves differently. I called the school counselor and asked her to talk to him. He went to speak with her and said it was dumb. I worry that it's unhealthy for him to keep his emotions in. How can I help him grieve?
A: Your son is suffering terribly right now. You need to provide him with as many opportunities to express his grief as possible. I'm not surprised that he said talking to the school counselor was "dumb." He's a 13-year-old boy trying to "be a man" about the death of a grandma he loved dearly so he'll "choose" anger or indifference rather than show how much pain he's in.
I hope that your son was involved in the rituals surrounding his grandma's death -- religious services, attending the burial, etc. I would engage him from time to time with talk of his grandma, letting him know that you intend to keep her memory alive in the family. Don't be afraid to let him see you sad or grieving. Tell him how much she loved him and start a conversation about about some of the good times that they had together. Make sure you assure him that she knew how much he loved her.
I would also ask him to accompany you to her grave a few times, even though he may refuse your invitation. Naming his pain -- "You must be missing Grandma so much. You loved her so" -- lets him know that you are aware of what he's feeling.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.