How to Help Your Daughter Grieve the Death of a FriendshipBy Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT
Did you ever consider the end to a friendship a death? It is, you know. It’s the death of a relationship, and the depth and longevity of the bond impacts the magnitude of grief. When a friendship ends, especially through relational aggression, grief is compounded and complicated by feelings of betrayal.
It’s a hard enough situation for adults to navigate, so imagine how children and teenagers feel. (It’s a problem if you can’t imagine it!) Adults have had more life experience to gauge their own severity of loss and also have a fully developed brain (age 25 and up) to get through it. Those adult assets – experience and maturity – are blessings if you understand these three things:
- Loss comes in different forms.
- Meeting a person where they are in their loss journey is important to healing.
- What a person feels is what they feel.
Let’s go deeper.
1. Loss comes in different forms. It’s the end of something, be it temporary or permanent. A permanent loss is the physical death of a person, place, or thing. When a person or pet dies, their physical presence is no longer available to you. The World Trade Center was permanently destroyed on September 11, 2001. Even if it were rebuilt replicating the original, it wouldn’t be the same. Natural disasters such as flooding, tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornados permanently alter geographic locations.
Another realm of loss is that it can be temporary or permanent, long-standing or brief. Examples include the loss of: identity, grounding, happiness, a dream or goal, status, belief in self or others, balance offset by a situational event, or relationship changes.
2. When you meet someone where they are emotionally, you must release your own personal expectations, judgments, hypotheses, and comparisons to listen empathically and fully. Their problem or loss is about them unfettered by your stuff. When you leave your stuff at the door, it allows you to meet the other person where THEY are. That is the starting place.
3. Feelings are feelings. They are neither right nor wrong; they just are. I own my feeling and you own yours. I also own the depth of my feelings, and so do you. This, too, is neither right nor wrong. It just is. Think back to when you were a child or teen. Choose a situation where you felt devastated but find it trivial or humorous now. Back then you felt what you felt, and no coaxing could help you feel differently.
Remember these points when your daughter is grieving the death of a friendship:
•Don’t tell her things aren’t as bad as she makes them out to be.
•Don’t give any “things could be so much worse” lectures.
•Don’t tell her how little or big her problem is.
•Don’t speak negatively about the other girl.
•Do tell her how you feel about the other girl’s part in the situation.
•Do listen empathically.
•Do try to determine the kind and extent of her loss. In a friendship loss, she could lose her identity, feeling grounded, ability to focus, appetite, etc. Guide her to determine whether her loss is permanent or if it could be temporary. Watch for symptoms of depression.
•Do ask if she would like hear about some of your experiences and how you felt about them then and now. Respect her answer.
•Do ask her what she needs to move forward.
•Do tell her you will be there for her to listen and to help.
In Part 2, I will illustrate how to have a helpful conversation with your daughter when she experiences the death of a friendship through emotional bullying. I’ll also give you a quick and easy strategy that you can use ANYWHERE to help her put friendship problems or other experiences in perspective.
© 2011 A Way Through, LLC
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com