This is combination minute/epistle from the recent gathering of the Quaker Concern Around Dying and Death. Please feel free to share, and please feel free to ask me about our work.
QDD Gathering, November 21st-22nd 2013 at Woodbrooke
Helping Children and Young People to face dying and death
We have explored our own memories and experiences in order to seek a greater understanding of how children and young people may best be supported in facing their bereavements.
We have been led to recognise that we cannot truly hear what children and young people need from us if we do not face our own losses with integrity.
We must be ready to acknowledge the intensity of children’s feelings and to allow a free expression of those feelings rather than stifling what we, as adults, find too disturbing to listen to.
We have learnt that, above all, we must be truthful and loving in preparing children for the facts of loss and death. Children and young people easily blame themselves for the death of a deeply loved relative, especially a parent. We can be gentle but strong in holding children emotionally and spiritually, and maybe, physically, while they make sense of human mortality. We have heard of the aunt who gave lasting comfort by saying, ‘I have known death all my life: there is nothing to be frightened of.’
As flawed human beings ourselves, we may make mistakes because of our own fears, sorrow or confusion; but we must return to the child or young person’s side, maybe with stumbling steps, but not with false promises.
Through play and stories children and young people explore their confusion and hurt. In these ways they may discover a new understanding and hope however sombre this might seem. At each stage of maturing children and young people may need to visit their loss regularly, by being given the open acceptance of loving adults. We can help children create reservoirs of memories to affirm the friendly presence of the dead person in their lives.
At this Gathering, we have revealed our own vulnerability in a safe, supportive, loving environment, and so enabled each other to explore and accept our own feelings as we move towards healing. This 24 hour Gathering, led by two skilled facilitators, has brought us to a place where we recognise how precious this work is. We have learnt that transformation is possible, a transformation that accepts pain and joy exist together.
We feel more ready to accompany children and young people on their own journeying.