Moving creates loss and we all grieve a loss differently. However, what we do share are some common myths for “healthy” ways to recover from a loss. Unfortunately for most of us, these “healthy” ways are not so healthy and don’t often help much. A frequently practiced myth is to replace the loss quickly. When the beloved family pet dies, some parents rush right out and buy a new pet to replace the old one without allowing children time to grieve the loss of their friend. Are we trying to be intentionally hurtful? Of course not. We are simply trying to make things better for our children.
In our quest to move on too quickly, we may unknowingly create even more stress for our kids as well as some not-so-healthy habits for them in dealing with loss throughout their lives. Rather than rushing to replace the loss, give yourself and your children time to just be sad about the situation. The majority of us are familiar with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief but we don’t always think about these stages outside the parameters of death and dying. We all go through these stage of grief when dealing with any loss. Grief is not a linear process. We can move back and forth through the stages as we experience loss, grief and transition.
Think about the last time you lost your car keys. You go to the hook where you “always” place your keys and they are not there. You stand there looking at the empty hook, look around, and look back at the empty hook. “I can’t believe they’re not there. I always put them there.” (denial) “How could I be so stupid! Now I’m going to be late for work!” (anger) “OK, if I can just find my keys I will make sure I ALWAYS put them on the hook. I will make sure I take the time to do this EVERY day.” (bargaining) “I’m so late. I won’t be able to prepare for my meeting. I won’t have time to get breakfast on the way and I’ll be hungry all day.” (depression) “OK. Get the spare set of keys from the garage and let’s go.” (acceptance)
When something like this happens, we go through all five of these stages in the matter of just a few minutes. Allowing our children the time to go through the grieving process when moving (and understanding that moving out of one stage doesn’t mean they are “done” with that stage) can be one of the greatest gifts we can give them both now and for the future.
Finding resources for your children is an important step as well. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is a kid-friendly, simple approach to helping children overcome the fear of separation or loneliness. If possible, try to move between school years or during a school holiday to make the transition a bit easier on your children. Friends are an important part of your children’s world and their adjustment process. Allow them to grief the loss of close friendships and support them in making new ones…on their own time. Check out this helpful guide to assist your children in making new friends: http://www.imom.com/tools/build-relationships/making-friends-discuss-it/
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.