A Man Cave All Their Own

Pillow+fort+http+wwwyoutubecom+watch+v+yvbhbys74mm_42ceb0_4241105

Before 11 year old Benjamin’s dad died, he would build the most spectacular blanket forts. The two of them would take over the living room, including the TV, with the largest blanket in the house. All weekend they would hunker down watch TV, play board games, read and snack. Together, they created a man cave all their own.

Building these forts and spending time with his dad are some of Benjamin’s most cherished memories. A continuing emotional bond is a clinically identified need for the healthy bereavement of children and teens who have experienced the profound loss of the death of a parent.

Family Lives On will make it possible for Benjamin to celebrate his and his dad’s fort-building tradition. This year, Benjamin will receive an extra large blanket, snacks, including goldfish crackers and freeze pops, along with other special items, from Family Lives On. Benjamin will have his tradition fulfilled every year until he is 18. The tradition will remain the same, but as Benjamin gets older, he will likely adapt it to a more age appropriate version.

Family Lives On understands many of the challenges faced by families who have lost a parent and spouse. Our goal is to support healthy bereavement in children and teens by making it possible for them to continue to celebrate activities or traditions they used to share with their deceased parent. Traditions provide a safe context for grief and foster intra family connection and communication.  Because the relationship never ends, your mom is forever your mom.

How to Build a Fort

How to Build a Fort

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Exton, PA that supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children whose mother or father has died. The free services of the Tradition Program are available to any child (3-18), anywhere in the United States, whose mother or father has died. To enroll in the program as a family in need, donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website or Facebook Page.

Helping Kids with Grief, Loss and Death

“Even though someone’s body dies, the love we feel never has to die. Our love remembers them forever.” – Anonymous

“Those who can’t weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”
–Golda Meir

Learning to mourn, and to be comfortable with the grieving process, might not seem like a parenting skill. But grief is a part of every life, and how we handle loss has a huge impact on the richness of our family’s emotional life. Our comfort level with loss also gives our children an important role model.

At times, there will be nothing we can do for our child except to sit with him and let him experience his grief: over a sports defeat, an inconsiderate peer, a dead pet, or even an ill or deceased loved one. To work through his grief, our child needs what therapists call a “holding environment,” and we are the ones who do the holding, both physically and emotionally.

If we are so uncomfortable with loss that we cannot allow our child to mourn, we give a destructive message that is far reaching. Accepting loss as a normal part of life is important for optimal mental health for all of us. The more we allow ourselves to grieve when necessary, the more joy we can feel.

Thankfully, grief is never interminable. Like all feelings, if we let ourselves feel it, grief swamps us, and then, eventually, diminishes. Not that grief ever disappears, but we can think of it as a slice of the pie of our lives:  at first an important loss pervades the entire circle of our life; but gradually the slice of our life in shadow becomes smaller and smaller.  Eventually, we can go on with our lives in a healthy way, although we may always revisit the pain of our loss.  But if we fend it off like an unwelcome visitor, grief doesn’t leave. It takes up residence like a shadow in our psyches, and we become stuck in its bitter influence. Unresolved grief compromises resiliency, threatening to burst out at even minor provocations, leaving us fragile and prone to depression.

Our children, therefore, not only need to grieve sometimes, but need our help to do so. Give children ongoing opportunities to ask questions and to talk about their loss. Create large and small rituals of remembrance, and to honor the deceased and help them keep them alive in your child’s heart.  As the months go by, make a point of mentioning the lost loved one’s name in conversation when appropriate.  Don’t insist that your child grieve when he or she is trying to be happy, but don’t act as if the loss didn’t happen, either.

Be aware that children grieve differently from adults. They need rituals that offer safe space for grieving, and then a defined end point so they can play again and go on with their lives without guilt.

The kids who successfully live through loss are the ones who find ways to feel connected to the person they’ve lost AND to go on with their lives.  Even children experiencing severe losses need time off from grief.  They need safe space, such as school, where they will not be reminded of their loss and can forget for a time.  They need to hear that we are there for them when they want to talk, and they need us to normalize talking about the loss, but they also need our permission to go on with their lives.

Books to help you talk with children about death.

More resources for griefcounseling needs: National Alliance for Grieving Children

______

Family Lives On Foundation supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children whose mother or father has died. Our Tradition Program provides opportunities for intentional remembering, creating a safe haven for grief, communication, and celebration. To enroll in the program as a family in need, donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website or Facebook Page.

Twitter: @familyliveson

Instagram: @familyliveson

email: info@familyliveson.org

More Than an Endless Bread Basket

Dinner “out” for special occasions is often a family tradition. For children who have lost a parent, continuing family rituals fosters lifelong emotional wellbeing. One family’s annual holiday tradition involves their local Olive Garden restaurant.

IMG_4903

A few years ago, the family (a single mom and her seven children) began the tradition with the Olive Garden on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. With such a large family on a modest budget, going out to dinner was a big deal. They would huddle in a big booth for the occasion, excited to be out to dinner with each other. Following dinner, they would stroll through the nearby Christmas Village and admire the light display at City Hall. On the way home, they would drive down two particular streets known to have magnificently over-the-top holiday decorations and “ooooh and ahhh” appropriately.

Since that mom lost her battle with cancer a few years ago, Family Lives On Foundation has made it possible for this tradition to continue. We hire a van to pick up the kids from the three different foster homes they now live in. The van transports them and three foster parents to that same Olive Garden on Chestnut Street. The Olive Garden generously reserves the booth and provides the meal, free of charge. Following the meal, they visit The Christmas Village, City Hall and the same two streets with spectacular displays before being dropped off at their separate homes.

For the past three years, these traditions facilitated by Family Lives On are some of the few times all of the children have been together as a family.

This tradition will be fulfilled every year until the youngest child turns 18. A continuing emotional bond to their deceased parent is a clinically identified need for the healthy bereavement of children and teens who have experienced the profound loss of the death of a parent. We’re proud to be able to bring together the seven siblings every year around the holidays and we are grateful for Olive Garden’s hospitality.

In the United States, more than 2 million children and teens are grieving the death of a parent. One in 20 children experiences this loss before the age of 16—that’s one in every classroom and two on every school bus.

Family Lives On’s “Tradition Program” serves as a therapeutic tool that enables children to move from survivors to thrivers and from “at risk” to “at promise.” Based on research and experience, Family Lives On understands that family rituals can be used to provide structure and routine to the chaos of life impaired by loss. Traditions provide a more natural context for young people to talk about the person who has passed away.

By: Christine Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On

Family Lives On Foundation supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children whose mother or father has died. Our Tradition Program provides opportunities for intentional remembering, creating a safe haven for grief, communication, and celebration. To enroll in the program as a family in need, donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website or Facebook Page or follow us @familyliveson Twitter Account or @familyliveson Instagram. To check out our 30-second PSA click here:The Family Lives On PB & J PSA.