Tag: anger

Children’s Grief Therapy Hack #1: Angry eggs- Part 2

Copyright: Nicole Hastings 2015

My twin boys were two when their daddy died and their grief was left unattended for awhile because I was so lost in my own. I didn’t have the slightest clue about how to tune into their grief or what to do about it. They were so young and it was hard for them to comprehend all that had happened and why their daddy was for so long lying in bed and then one day he wasn’t. The boys’ grief came out in droves of crying tantrums, night terrors, acting out and aggression. Just like adults, children can grieve in different ways unique to their own personality and individual experience with the person they lost. One of my boys was very inquisitive, sensitive and open about his feelings from the beginning. The other boy seemed to shut down, refusing to talk about his dad. Instead, his grief came out in physical aggression and acting out. Since they’ve gotten older, we continue to talk openly about anything they want to talk about regarding their dad, and I’ve recently noticed my son who tended to react to grief more physically, getting angry really easily. Any little thing would set him off.

A counselor suggested I let him bang on a piece of wood with a hammer. I tried that, but it quickly escalated into “what else can I hit with a hammer?” so I didn’t revisit that idea. I was wracking my brain to see how I could help him visualize his anger in a safe and productive way when I remembered the dishes I broke with a sledge hammer. If I had just swung a sledgehammer at nothing, I’m sure that it wouldn’t have had the same effect as my seeing the brokenness that laid before me. So I made him “Angry Eggs”: blown out egg shells with angry or sad faces drawn on them. If he’s feeling angry, instead of destructive behavior that might harm someone, himself or a part of the home, he can crush, stomp on, or smash the egg and see the result; tiny little broken pieces of eggshell. When he first did this, it was almost an instant calm and redirection for him. So now, if I sense he’s getting overwhelmed and angry for no apparent reason, I ask him: “Do you want to break an Angry Egg?”

 

 

How to make Angry Eggs:

Items needed:

1 or more raw eggs

1 large needle or safety pin (or I used a corncob holder!)

1 Sharpie marker

Step One: Take an egg out of the carton (preferably at breakfast or during baking if you need an egg anyway)

Step Two: On one end of the egg bore a small hole in the shell with the needle. You might have to make it small at first and gradually make it bigger; the size of a grain of rice should be big enough.

Step Three: Make a same sized hole on the other end of the egg.

Step Four: Clean off the egg if there are any eggy drips and blow into one of the holes on the egg. The yolk and whites should come out the other end, if it doesn’t, make the holes a little bit bigger. Voila—an intact, empty eggshell.

Step Five: Draw any kind of face you want on the egg. If your child is old enough to be gentle with the egg, he/she can draw her own feelings faces.

Step Six: Smash away or save in the carton for another time when emotions are running high. I always have plenty available to reach for at a moment’s notice.

 

*Disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. I am merely sharing things that helped me and my family. Please refer to your or your child’s therapist to help identify grief patterns in his/her/your unique experience.

 

 

Mom and Dad’s DIY therapy hack #1: Break some stuff-Part 1

Copyright: Candus Camera

 

“Wise anger is like the fire from the flint; there is a great ado to bring it out;

and when it does come, it is out again immediately.”~ Matthew Henry

The first year after the loss of my husband, I was constantly swimming with anger; anger towards cancer for stealing my husband and my children’s father, anger towards things that were said or done or weren’t said or weren’t done. I woke up with anger, I went through the day with anger and I went to bed with anger. If grief and healing were a moving machine, steeping in anger and bitterness wedges itself between the gears and stops the machine. Anger kept me at a standstill. It was a distraction from the deeper roots of my loss. Anger shut me off from myself, my family and my God, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. Yes, anger is very common in grief, it’s OK to feel it in your loss, but my anger was infecting every other part of my being on top of struggling to comprehend the trauma and tragedy I had just endured. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t do anything other than relive all the things I was angry about. I kept telling myself I was justified in my anger. So many things went wrong and if I let go of the anger, would that would mean I would be saying everything was “OK?” Logically the answer is ‘No,’ that’s not what it would mean, but anger has a funny way of distorting memories and making you cling to them for dear life. Holding onto anger catapulted me into the deep end of the pool, swimming in depression, bitterness, despair and negativity. I had to get it out some way, somehow, because I was drowning—so I chose anger as my life preserver.

I was seeing a counselor who was trying to help me process and work through my anger. One thing that helped me was EMDR, but that and the counseling cost money on top of the expense to find childcare for the therapy sessions made it difficult for me to attend consistently so my counselor suggested a cheaper therapy for me to try at home; breaking dishes.

So, one night when the kids were in bed, I went out into the garage and bagged up all my old dishes; dishes that reminded me of all the meals I had with my husband and all the conversation and memories those dishes held. Preparing meals on, washing and putting them away every day, over and over again was another staple to my making a home with him; cooking, eating, cleaning…the simple tasks that gave me a purpose, a reminder that we were a team, a family. So pulling out these dishes from packed boxes I found I was even angry at the dishes, how dare they remind me of what I had for a split second in my life, like a dangling carrot that was then ripped away. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t want to be left with dishes, I just wanted my husband back and I couldn’t, so I put all the dishes in a trash bag and then that trash bag in another trash bag and then in yet another; per the directions of my counselor. I placed the bag in the middle of the garage floor and I just stared at it for a long time, seeing if I could muster up tears or some other feeling, but nothing came. So I grabbed the sledgehammer in the corner of the garage and took a swing at the bag. It was a lame excuse for a swing, as nothing even broke and it was as if the bag was taunting me, “You can do better than that…” So I took another swing and heard a crash. Once the momentum began I swung at that bag over and over until the tears came and the anger bubbled to the surface. I don’t know how much time passed, but when I finally stopped, the once bulky bag lay tattered and flattened, all those dishes smashed to tiny pieces. I was exhausted, but felt a little bit lighter than before. There’s just something about actually seeing the result of my anger that helps to free it, seeing the pieces and the destruction rather than letting it all swirl around in my head and letting it destroy me. There’s something symbolic about being able to then pick up the pieces and toss them in the garbage. I wish I could say that one night of breaking dishes got rid of all the anger for me, but it was the first little crack in the giant dam I had built up inside me. Eventually that crack got bigger and bigger, allowing more and more emotions to flow and be felt much more easily.

 

Common sense tips for breaking stuff:

  • Do this in a place where you feel safe and your children are being taken care of by someone else (I didn’t want my children to walk in on me wielding a sledgehammer!)
  • Be intentional about it, and, I would suggest, be sober.
  • Wear eye protection if you don’t bag it up, although bagging it up means less stress (and shrapnel) about cleanup afterwards

 

*Disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. I am merely sharing things that helped me and my family. Please refer to your or your child’s therapist to help identify grief patterns in his/her/your unique experience.