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Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives



Dr. Hoy is BACK!
We are excited to be hosting in-person workshops the first week of August (next week!!). If you are in need of CEUs and interested in attending, please register on our Events Page. And of course, you can always email me.
We hope to see you!
 
Wishing you all a beautiful rest of your summer!
Your partner & resource,

Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support & Education
blomaka@oconnormortuary.com
(949) 581-4300 ext. 229
 
GriefPerspectives
 

Helping the Princess Say "Goodbye" to the Rat
by Molly A. Keating

My husband and I recently purchased our first home, a charming little bungalow built in 1924. We were thrilled to leave our apartment life and give our two little kids the wilderness of their own backyard. There is so much discovery that takes place in transitions. For the most part, everything we’ve learned about or discovered in our home has been expected or a charming surprise.
 
What wasn’t charming? The rats.

 

  
 
Our garage was built for Model-Ts and is small, quaint, and dips down in the middle due to age & structural issues. It’s an awesome old garage and, well,  the rats thought so too. We set traps and my 4-year-old daughter, Eden, loudly announced her finding of our first catch. It briefly occurred to me to shelter her from it, but I know and believe our temptation to hide death from children is unhelpful. I also know her – she’s fascinated by creatures and doesn’t cringe or shy away from the idea of them being dead (many a dead snail or worm has been lovingly treasured by her). She lives in princess dresses and is thrilled with every bug that comes across her path.  And, well, she had already seen the dead rat, so there was nothing to be done but begin answering the slew of questions she had.

I learned early on in grief education that kids ask the questions they want answers to and stop asking when they have the information they want or when they recognize they need time to process the answers.
 
So, when kids ask questions about death, the best path forward is to only, directly and honestly answer the question they asked.
 
As adults we tend to over-complicate things and get ourselves into sticky territory all too quickly in our explanations. Kids don’t need us scrambling to describe and answer all of life’s mysteries – they need to just know why the rat is dead.

The rat is dead because it went into the trap we left out for it.
Why did we leave a trap for it? – Because we don’t want rats around us.
Why not? – Because rats chew on our things, poop everywhere, and are a little icky.
Ok.
Is the rat ok? – He has died. He isn’t hurting at all.
Ok mama.
 
My daughter watched as my husband put the rat into one of our trash cans and throughout the day asked to be lifted-up to see the rat’s body at the bottom of the can. Her sweet dad complied every time and the dead-rat-visits became a regular part of the following days.
 
A few days later, yard work took the rat-trash-can out into the yard and grass and other debris was put on top of him and we couldn’t see him anymore. It bothered her very much that she could no longer see him. She wanted us to take the leaves and grass off of him. I knew we couldn’t do that and that she needed a place to move to emotionally and mentally with the rat.
 
My funeral experiences told me she needed to say goodbye. Her emotion and frustration confirmed it.
 
I called her over to the trashcan and said something like this:
“Eden, we are going to say goodbye to the rat. Let’s take a minute to share what we liked about him and why we are sorry he died.”
“Ok, momma.”
(We stood next to each other in front of the trash can.)
“Eden, what was your favorite thing about the rat?
“Ice cream!” (She shouted this with the biggest smile, I kid you not and no, I have no clue. I rolled with it).
“Ok, ice cream! Yeah! Rat, you remind Eden of ice cream and that’s a wonderful thing. We are sorry that you have to go, but we are grateful for the time we had with you in our yard and in our trash can. Thank you rat, goodbye.”
“Goodbye rat!”
 
And like that, she was off, running and playing. The rat didn’t come up again.
Until trash day.
 
We were sitting out front on our porch, watching the trash truck come and lift our bins. As the rat bin emptied into the truck and it pulled away, I heard Eden say calmly, “Goodbye, rat” and wave with her sweet, little girl hands.
 
What a precious thing it is to witness a heart that loves and gives itself the freedom to say goodbyes.

 
I think about that experience with her and consider what we learned together.
 
What I hope she learned about:

  • Being curious is wonderful and good
  • Asking questions is important and helpful
  • Death doesn’t need to be hidden
  • Loss hurts and we can’t change it
  • Taking time to remember and give a little tribute is special and important
  • It helps to say goodbye
 
What I learned about:
  • The simple beauty of honesty
  • How early and young we are when these first connections are made in our relationship to death
  • How simple it was to make space for her sadness
  • Absurd little ideas can lead to peace and help a little girl’s heart
  • Validation is a path to healing and calm
  • Leaning into these moments are worth it

 
Something I will cherish about that goodbye was the laughter her “ice cream!” shout injected. Funerals are almost always a solid mix of sorrow and laughing joy. I love that our trashcan ceremony had laughter, too.
 
I don’t think anything magical happened here or that I created a Hallmark moment by the trash can. But I know it was important and special. I feel that at the beginning of this relationship with death and grief we walked through it well with her.
 
I realized later that I was able to take the patterns of funeral ritual and condense them down into a couple minutes. I witnessed their power as they took a sad and upset 4-year-old out of her confusion and into a sequence that gave respect and time to the loss she was feeling. Creating that space for her sadness, giving her a chance to witness the reality, share her thoughts (ice cream!), and be with her in that time of confusion was very significant to me.
 
I get to have extraordinary moments with my kids all of the time, but this one with the princess, the rat, and the trash can will stay with me as a moment that was meaningful, a little bit silly, and very full of love.



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The Author: Molly Keating has worked at O'Connor Mortuary since 2009 and is the author of their monthly blog, From the Heart and a contributing editor to this publication. She holds a Masters Degree and a Certificate in Thanatology. She lives in Santa Ana, California with her husband of eleven years and two children,  Eden (4) and Forest (2). 

Our Events Calendar
Dr. Hoy is joining us IN-PERSON for Our August Workshop Series!

August 3 | RCFE Workshop
2pm - 4pm at O'Connor Mortuary

Managing Grief in a Post-COVID World
2.0 CEUs Available

August 3 | Community Workshop
7pm - 8:30pm at Temple Beth El
Facing Fears in a Changed World

August 5 | Hospice Professional Workshop
8am - 10am at O'Connor Mortuary

Making Sense of the Senseless:
Spiritual Care in an Uncertain World

2.0 CEUs Available

 
Click Here to Learn More & View All Events
 Reiki + Meditation Circle

Relax, rejuvenate, and heal with meditation, Reiki, and other mindfulness practices.

Join Reiki Master and event host, Kathy Brook-Wong for our upcoming Zoom circles:

Reiki + Yoga Mindfulness Circle
with Kathy Brook-Wong & Jared Andrew Warren
Sunday, August 22  3:00pm - 4:15pm 
Register Here
Engage in breathwork, yoga, meditation, journaling, and receive Reiki healing energy to restore, rejuvenate and relax.

Reiki + Peace with Death Circle
with Kathy Brook-Wong & Alejendrah K. East
Sunday, September 5 from 3:00 - 4:15pm   
We will take a look at attitudes and practices around death and dying around the world and learn ways that we can become more comfortable with dying as a part of living and embrace this life cycle with compassion and love. 
 
Advanced Registration is Required.
 
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining us on Zoom.
Resource Review

 
The Association of Death Education and Counseling is a truly unique home to excellent content, CEU hours, and top-in-their-field presenters. If you want to be on the cutting edge of bereavement theory, this is the place to go. 
ADEC offers a Webinar Catalog of upcoming and recorded webinars that can be purchased or attended live and offer 1.5 CEU credits. There is a special discount offered to ADEC members.
These webinars offer a flexible path toward maintaining hours with the option of purchasing recorded webinars that still offer the CEU Credit. These webinars can also be attended live from your home or place of work.  Additionally, ADEC's curated collection features some of the most respected minds in the death and bereavement field today. 
We encourage you to check out their offerings and, in connection to this month's theme, we want to highlight the most recent webinar with B. Tammy Bartel, MA, RCC, FT, entitled "Learning to Be a Family Again: Understanding and Supporting Family Members After a Loss." Her phenomenal research, current studies, and personal story are compelling and serve as an excellent overview of the history of grief theory. 
Your Professional Library

Silverman, P. R., & Kelly, M. (2009). A parent's guide to raising grieving children: Rebuilding your family after the death of a loved one. Oxford University Press.
 
Reviewed by Molly A. Keating, MA, CT
Editor, GriefPerspectives
 

Silverman and Kelly's collaborative book, A Parent's Guide to Raising Grieving Children, comprehensively explores all facets of grief that these families face. Their second chapter, "What Death Means to Children," explores the developmental stages of children and the levels of comprehension they are dealing with. They wisely explain the boundaries and different approaches we need to practice as we talk about death and the death stories with little children on up to teenagers.  
Written with an awareness that their readers would be in different spots on the journey in grief they include a chapter about anticipation of the loss and another exploring life after the death.  Their chapters fully investigate and digest these defining moments in the family system. By looking at these intimate and deeply troubling experiences, Silverman and Kelly create a book that confronts what others keep hidden. This book begins to take on the role of a  companion guide for those struggling to find others to connect their experiences with.
The losses explored in-depth are the death of a parent, death of a child,  and the loss of a friend. Concluding with support resources, practical and emotional, they create a list of subsections that can be indexed as needed by the reader. Examples of these sections include, "Parenting Your Other Children" and "Redesigning the Role of a Parent." Silverman and Kelly also include a chapter on Continuing Bonds - some of Silverman's most important work. Their acknowledgement of the connections families experience and desire to have with their loved one offers hope, connectivity, and a fullness to the last pages of this book.
With input from countless families, stories that come from within their own families, and years of helping people in these losses, their work is based in the raw and honest experiences of people.  
The wealth of practical knowledge in this book paired with the accessibility of it's structure makes this an excellent reference guide or a comprehensive deep read. 

Research that Matters
Will Return Next Month
GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2021. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at GriefResources@msn.com.
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