The Compassionate Heart
If you have read any of my blogs you know that I am a volunteer in a child bereavement program offered by a local hospice. I believe this program is outstanding and I feel honored to participate in it! One of the many benefits I see from this program is the opportunity for children to understand compassion.
Many times the children I work with are in small groups. This allows them to realize they are not the only ones experiencing grief. As each child shares their experience, all the other children have the opportunity to listen with a loving heart. They begin to see that grief is a universal experience of many different emotions - which come to the surface to be healed during the classes. I believe these children will be better equipped to support other grieving children and adults who come into their lives.
Even when I work individually with a child, the stories we share demonstrate how children can be exposed directly or indirectly with the experience of the death of a loved one - i.e. person or pet. For example, I worked with a student who told me about a younger cousin who was acting out after the death of a close family member. He was clear as to why the youngster was behaving so differently - because she was grieving, and grieving in her own way. I saw how non-judgmental his thoughts and feelings were about his younger cousin. He told me that he was thinking about talking with his cousin about some of the things he learned in the bereavement program.
Even if a child does not directly experience the death of a loved one, chances are they will know someone who is. How can you help your child demonstrate compassion for their friend in these situations?
A good way is to share special grieving stories with your child, opening up a discussion about how your child might become a great listener and peaceful presence with a friend who is grieving. We use many books with our children which help open the door to discuss this tender topic. Here are some I have used:
Each of these stories provides opportunities for you to share your beliefs and wisdom about death and how people can grieve in healthy ways. I suggest you actually use the word compassion with your child, encouraging him or her to embody this quality:
"I am compassionate when I quietly listen to my friend tell me about the death of her grandma. I understand that she is feeling very sad. I understand that she may act differently as she grieves, and that it is OK for her to feel upset."
This gift of compassion you are teaching your child will pay off throughout their life !
(image courtesy of ChrisArt.com)
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