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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

H.O.P.E - Hold On, Pain Ends.

I am wrapped up in a blanket on my sofa. Cello music is playing from my speakers. I’ve eaten a little bit (ok quite a lot) of chocolate, and I am writing – one of my favourite things to do. Everything about this is comforting. I feel safe.

There are few things more important than having a place of safety to retreat into. Somewhere you can watch the rain falling outside, knowing that in your haven, you will stay warm and dry. Somewhere to go where the bad stuff can’t get to you. A door you can close on the world. The place where your heart feels peaceful and all your needs are met. They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Mine is a fort made out of my sofa, and it rocks.

Recently, I’ve been asked how to create a sense of safety for children whose home environment has been shattered by a terrible thing. For children who possibly don’t have a sofa fort they can hide in with their mum or dad. It’s a very hard question to answer, but I’ve given my top practical tips in detail on my coaching blog.

Perhaps the terrible thing is the loss of a parent. Perhaps the child has witnessed something traumatic that no child should see. Perhaps their home has disappeared from beneath their feet because their parent has had to move them somewhere new. Perhaps the terrible thing isn’t over yet, with the constant threat of more bad stuff hanging over their head.

They may have two amicable co-parents struggling through the grief of separation together. Or they may have parents who are in such pain through their relationship breakdown that they cannot communicate with each other at all. Whatever it is that has snuffed out a child’s sense of safety, it is a terrible thing indeed. And we parents know it when we see it. Believe me, we do.

There are no easy answers for a parent who is feeling frightened, ill-equipped to cope or who has been hurt by life themselves. When you feel unsafe, it is a feat of tremendous strength to become a place of safety for your dependent children. When I stand in front of a parent who asks me ‘how do I talk to my child about this?’ or ‘How can I help them stop hurting?’ invariably, hurt and fear is what I see in the parents eyes too.

Give yourself permission to be hurting. It’s ok. I promise. The pain will end. It will end faster, when you give yourself permission to come undone and cry. Tears won’t break you into a million little pieces, they will just help to wash away the pain. Sometimes that release of emotion is the most powerful gift you can give yourself in the moment. Your children will learn more from your unraveling and honest rebuilding than they ever could from watching you pretend that life is A.O.K. If it isn’t, let them know. If they need to cry and it moves you to tears, cry together. Hold them. Listen. Love them.  Don’t lean on them as if they are adult, but let them know that adults get scared too. There are no bad feelings, only big ones. Welcome them all into your family and I promise you – even the big feelings will pass, in time.

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