Learning to Process
By Tracey Durant
Our son, Seth, was just five years old when his one-year-old sister, Callie, died very suddenly from an undetermined virus. Understandably, he was deeply affected by her loss. His Dad and I were struggling in our own grief and trying our best to help Seth with his. He had a lot of questions about what had happened and where she was now. These questions were hard for his Dad and I to answer because some were painful to talk about and some we just didn’t have the answer to. We wanted to encourage Seth to be open about his sister’s loss, we wanted to make sure that he knew that she would never be forgotten and would always be part of our family, and we wanted to make sure he felt safe. Taking all of that on while trying to process Callie’s loss ourselves was such a challenge.
Being referred to The Garden was such an incredible help to our family. It gave Seth a safe place to process the loss of his sister and to see that he was not alone in his grief. He created wonderful art projects in memory of her that were so meaningful to him. It also gave a space for his Dad and I to talk about our experience parenting through this loss, what our fears and concerns were, and to receive invaluable advice on how to navigate that in the best way for our son.
Seth has done amazingly well in his ability to cope with his sister’s death. He is the first one to make sure she is included in all the holiday celebrations. He is first one to talk about his favorite memories of her. At an annual ceremony for children who have died, he on his own was brave enough to get up before a crowd of strangers and honor his sister.
Most amazingly, though, is his ability to tune in to the grief of others. He has a deep understanding for how grief can come out in so many ways from tears, to anger, to just having trouble getting out of bed and he can recognize when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my emotions related to my grief over Callie. He will take my hand and say, “You are feeling sad about Callie. Let’s sit and look at her picture and remember a really good day with her.” I can’t express how much of a gift that is and I credit our time at The Garden for the way Seth has been able to process his grief and keep his sister’s memory alive not just for himself, but for our whole family.