Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Crying has a powerful effect on the healing process. There is brain science and multiple theories about how and why. The most powerful though is to watch it in action. Ive had the opportunity to work with many families and I'll share a story of a family who lost their family pet and how a series of "tantrums and tears" helped their 4 year old heal well from the loss.
For 6 months this family had a new kitten in their family.
(This Kitten joined their family as a strategic help for both children after a sudden divorce/separation). As the kitten grew and grew she became one who loved to go outside and would often dash out whenever the door was opened. One such morning the cat got out for a short time and was hit by a car just down the road from their home. The neighbor informed the Mom and they were able to coordinate taking care of the incident etc. The mother however was extremely unsure about how to address it with her girls. The girls asked about the cat a couple of times afterwards and the mother just pacified them saying she was outside.
It took the Mom 2 days to get to a point where she could talk to her girls about what had happened. She told the girls about the kitty getting hit by a car. There wasn’t much immediate reaction. They immediately wanted to get a new kitty. She didn't immediately agree to getting a new cat, but waited for the reality of what had happened to hit the girls, quite anxiously. About 3-4 days later the 4 yr old was in her room to playing, the Mother heard little whimpers and went in to check on her. She was sobbing.
Her Mom picked her up and held her, told her Mommy was here listening to her big feelings and that it was okay to cry. She sobbed harder. The Mother moved with her daughter to the couch to be more comfortable and the tears went on for about 40 minutes off and on. Each wave of emotion was full of tears with pauses in between and then it would begin again. They moved places several times and her daughter would stop, get up, walk to the cat climber (or some other object where the cat played/hung out) and begin again. Her mother held her, stayed close and assured her she was there and this was hard. After about 40 minutes the Mom had to cut her daughter short to get her sister from school. The 4 yo had had a substancial opportunity to emotionally release the hurt and grief she was feeling and was able to move forward and get her sister from school. She was still quite sad.
Since this session though she is able to talk freely about their Kitten and tell funny stories without the big emotions taking over every time. A few weeks later the family began fostering kittens for the humane society and she was able to fully engage with the new kittens and to participate in their care and also saying goodbye once each litter (over 21 kittens in 6 months time) was ready for adoption. She’s been fully able to recover from the sad and tragic event in their family.
This story goes to show how the simple act of STAYING CLOSE and LISTENING to a childs tears can help them offload and process BIG feelings and events that happen in life. We as adults often find it helpful to have a listening ear to help us get through hard things. Its no different with kids!! Want to learn more? Have questions? Feel free to contact me for more information or a discovery phone call!