Summertime and the living is easy … well maybe, maybe not, but we do tend to find some down time in the summer. Families with children regularly take advantage of the days when the kids are out of school. Finding time to get away takes planning but summer is a good time to build some new, happy memories. A happy time may be more difficult when there is a glaring empty space in the family. This space cannot be filled by another person, nor can it be ignored. Both will lead to more pain than healing. So the challenge, as in all grieving situations, is to learn to enjoy life and still deal with the emotions associated with loss.
I have to begin by saying that it is okay to forget sometimes. You must. If you try to spend every waking moment remembering someone who isn’t there you will never find peace. “Moving on” is not a profane phrase, it all depends on how you move on. You can move on and still honor the person you lost. This is a balance and I can tell you from experience that guiding your children is not easy. Every child is on a different journey and they do not all need the same type of attention, but they all need attention. You will hit the mark and miss the mark, but they will know you care if your heart and intention are genuine. With that in mind here are a few summertime suggestions:
Idleness is not good. Kids certainly need some down time and a week or two of doing nothing at home isn’t bad, but they need something to do. This can be a vacation, spending time with grandparents, volunteering, camps, swimming pool passes, jobs–you name it. Kids like to rest but they also know when they have wasted time. Give them something positive to do. They may resist but do it anyway. They will feel better.
Do something new. When planing a day trip or long vacation, familiarity can be good but it can also highlight the fact that someone is missing. Early on after my wife died I took my kids to Branson, MO, a trip their mom had planned for us many times. Although we did have a little fun it was hard on all of us and the overall vibe of the trip was not good. I suggest going somewhere where new experiences prevail over old memories.
Include some one-on-one experiences. Individual time with your children is the most reassuring for them. I have three children, girl/boy/girl, spanning 7 years in age. Of course they are all very different. A day of fun planned specifically for each of them individually does much more to make them feel loved and secure than a big family vacation. It gives you time to hear their specific needs and feelings.
Do not pack too much in the schedule. The temptation when planning any outing is to squeeze in as much activity as y0u can. Everyone has their own definition of a fun vacation, but don’t be so busy you don’t have time to connect.
Summer may not always be easy but it is a natural time to plan some healing activities. You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money. Relaxing time together can be healing time together. You can’t force a child to feel a certain way, but you can show them how you feel about them by giving them your time.