Coping with Loss/Not moving on
I have a question about my nieces and I hope you can help, On August 19th, my sister Kailey fell from a building she was painting, and she died. Her harness snapped. Ever since her death out whole family has been coping and trying to move on, which hasn't always been easy. Kailey had six year old twin daughters, Sloan and Addisyn and a husband. Our family has been helping him with the twins as much as possible, and he's adjusting slowly. However, the twins aren't. I can't imagine what they're going through but I thought it would be a little better by now. They hate school, they hate going anywhere, and I think they hate life in general now. They were so full of life before their mom died. They saw a therapist for awhile and it helped until they went back to school. They hate school now. They're only in first grade, so that's not good. They get in trouble all the time, they don't talk to their friends, and they don't have any fun. How can I help them enjoy life a little more even though their mom is gone? How can I help them move on a little?
What a gift you are for your brother and nieces -- to have someone care enough about them to seek help for learning how to help. My whole heart to your family for Kailey's death. I'm just so sorry. First off, I would say that August 19th was 8 *weeks* ago. I know life moves relentlessly on, but the first thing everyone might want to consider is that 8 weeks is a very, very short period of time in the context of a mother you've had around your whole life -- and in the context of learning how to live the entire rest of your life without her. Eight weeks isn't even really enough time to integrate traumatic loss. At 8 weeks, you are still waking up in the morning and having to remind yourself that you are living this new reality where your mom is dead. Really. It takes a LOT of time to learn to live again after traumatic death. A LOT. A lot more than people think, a lot more than people think it should, even a lot more than most "experts" will allow before trying to medicate everyone into numbness for the sake of functioning.
So truly, I tell you this from my own point of view as a bereaved mother who is surviving the deaths of two sons: the best thing you can do to help them is to educate yourself on mindfulness practices, build up your own emotional tolerance for all things death, dying, and grief, and learn how to be a solid advocate for your family in the face of an impatient world that relentlessly presses us to find the mythical "closure." Closure is a lie.
The best I can do is point you in the direction of a some reliable resources that have helped my own family and the families of the clients I've worked with over the years. If these things speak to you, then pursue understanding them with your whole heart and become the advocate I hear and see in the love you have for your family. If these things do not speak to you, well, then that's okay -- and my ideas may just not be a fit for where you are in your experience. But this is the best I can offer:
Miriam Greenspan's "Healing Through the Dark Emotions" (book) - http://www.miriamgreenspan.com/
Nancy Berns' "Closure: the rush to end grief and what it costs us" (book and website) - http://www.nancyberns.com/
Nancy Berns' speaking on Closure at TEDx - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0rCfXSdYPE
Grief Watch book Tear Soup - great foundational book for bereaved children - http://www.griefwatch.com/tear-soup-home.html
Dougy Center - supporting children who are bereaved and educating those who love them - http://www.dougy.org/
Highmark Caring Place - again haven for bereaved children learning to live after death of a loved one - http://www.highmarkcaringplace.com
MISS Foundation free eBooks for bereaved kids - there are two workbook like eBooks available here for children to explore with someone they love - http://missfoundation.org/support/justforkids/ebooks
Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood helps children dealing with death - http://www.fredrogers.org/new-site/par-death.html
I hope, hope, hope this is a good start to finding solid ground in what it means to grieve, how long it takes, how we can help others in compassionate ways. Honestly, I'm not the least bit surprised to hear about the reactions of your nieces. Death took one of the most precious people they love. Grief has rocked everything they thought they could count on. In the face of the most absurd reality of learning to live life without your mother when you are only 6 years old -- it makes complete sense to me that they'd rage and question and feel groundless and act out. Especially being only 8 weeks into this new, completely foreign territory.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore the resources I link to above and learn all you can. You have the potential for being a huge gift, a wonderful advocate, and a long term, loving presence in their lives. And, by all means, take care to tend yourself, too!! We do our best in helping others when we are also tending our own grief. There's a wonderful video from Byron Katie, working with a man after his niece died, where she helps him see that he thinks he's worried about his sister's grief, but an even bigger piece of the picture is his own grief. She helps him see how important it is to tend himself, too:
Again, my heart to you and your family. I'm so very sorry you are all learning to live without Kailey now. It stinks. It's so not fair. I wish it were different.
Please feel free to write again if I can be of help in any other way.