Pandemics activate many of our most primitive fears:
- Helplessness in the face of the unseen threat from nature
- Fear of the stranger bringing danger to those we love
- Fear of sickness and death, both for ourselves and the most terrible fear we could cause it in those we love
- Fear of the impotence that can come with the loss of the status of work or study, or the ability to contribute
- Social isolation, loneliness, and feeling disconnected from our broader groups.
Acceptance is the key for dealing with unwanted reality, but to get there we usually have to go through stages.
- We start in denial and try to avoid the reality (eg: Bondi beach gatherings)
- When it cannot be avoided, we then try to bargain our way out of the worry through control (eg: hoarding)
- When we realise we cannot control that which we fear, we then have to deal with our anger that it happened in the first place (eg: blame of government). Though these first three stages cannot be avoided, you don’t want your children to get stuck in them.
- It is our children’s sadness which allows them (through legitimate sorrow) to come to acceptance…that it is what it is. This is the work of grief and results in acceptance.
- Once acceptance is reached, your child is then free to take action based on how it is, rather than based on how they wished it was.
When trying to help your child deal with the grief associated with Coronavirus and it’s multiple unwanted realities, keep it simple by focusing on the four things that help a healthy progression through the stages of grief whatever the cause.
- Togetherness: this decreases the sense of loneliness, and provides a sense that whatever happens we will face it together. If you as their parent can bear it, it must be bearable.
- Talking: listening to another’s story, validating their experiences, and playfully offering your own story and experiences.
- Forgiveness: blame generally keeps people stuck in anger, making acceptance hard to achieve. Having a family value of forgiveness helps your children to move beyond the anger of blame.
- Humour: after the seriousness has been validated, gradually and increasingly finding something to laugh about. It is often through shared humour that we feel most connected.
What these four things have in common is that you cannot force any of them to happen for another person. They can only be offered; in hope and with love. Whether your child accepts them is up to them. But you can be confident that you have done what you can do to help them grieve and come to acceptance.