I first learned about this concept as a Grief Recovery Specialist® from the book “When Children Grieve” by John W James and Russell Freidman, coauthors/founders of The Grief Recovery Method®.
It’s an activity meant to help adults help children whom are grieving, but I truly believe it can help a plethora of people - think mapping out emotional energies for your best friend who just lost her husband, so that you can be better prepared for her in her despair.
And as a parent and a previous middle school teacher, this activity is incredibly considerate to help a child.
Think of this work as a brainstorming technique or a mind-mapping session; little bitty triggers and/or thoughts that you COULD HAVE - all stemming from a specific loss.
I’m going to walk you through the example of the death of an auto-mechanic 44yo father by heart attack while mowing the lawn before dinner on a Sunday.
FYI: This was not our personal experience, I just made up this scenario as I’m writing this to show you all the EMOTIONAL ENERGIES that one might think of.
1️⃣ Write the specific loss in the center of the page
(or at the top if you want to make a list instead of a mind-map).
2️⃣ Start brainstorming areas of life that the child/person might have a specific trigger to.
Specific trauma events (mowing, age, heart-attack, job, dinner, Sundays), holidays, school, friends, mom, home.
But also think specific things - if you know of them - from the past, present, or future that they might regret or wished that they’d get: (driving cars, graduation, weddings, having their own children, first dates).
3️⃣ Write thoughts or feelings or questions the child/person might have.
Especially when using this exercise for a child, you’d be surprised what might enter their sweet little minds. My children at the ages of 8 and 11 asked me over their dad’s body on life support:
“If Daddy dies, can we still be ‘Driskells’?”
Heck, the child’s friend - depending upon their ages and maturity - might freak out a little, too, because if Johnny’s dad died from a heart-attack while mowing the lawn, maybe MINE might!!!??!!??
Here’s a picture of me mind-mapping this example for us. I hope it helps you as you do this exercise in your own grief experience. And, I’m sorry that you have to.