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Jan. 24, 2022

Episode 31: Helping Children Through The Grief Of Losing A Sibling

In this episode, DJ talks with Michele Benyo to discuss how to  help your child(ren) cope with the grief of losing their sibling when you are coping with the grief of losing your child.

Some try to heal from a loss by refusing grief and ignoring it. These people don't heal and have a harder time... Grief is a necessary part of healing. Tune in to this episode to hear one mother’s journey through the grief of losing her son to cancer and how she helped her young daughter learn to cope in a world without her big brother.

Listen to this episode to hear how one mother’s quest for resources to help herself through the loss of her son and her daughter through the loss of her brother led to the creation of Good Grief Parenting - a resource that provides guidance, assurance, skills and the tools you need to support your grieving child and yourself as you heal from loss.

When parents suffer the death of a child, the bereaved sibling is often a forgotten griever. Their loss and their grief have a lifelong impact on their sense of self and belonging. Don’t miss this episode! DJ talks with Michele Benyo, founder of Good Grief Parenting, who will help you understand that by fostering understanding of your surviving child, you will empower them to grow into wholeness.

Are you a parent that has experienced the loss of a child? What resources did you have available to you to deal with the grief and help your surviving child(ren) cope? Please share your experience with us and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy

Connect with the host:
DJ Stutz:

Connect with our guest:
Michelle Benyo


DJ Stutz  0:14  
You're listening to Episode 31 of Imperfect Heroes Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host DJ Stutz. And in today's episode, we're talking about a topic that no one wants to even think about. Today's guest is Michele Benyo, who has managed through the death of her son, and work to help her then three and a half year old daughter work through her grief. Michele says you and your child are grieving the loss of a loved one. Every day, you ask yourself one desperate question, How am I supposed to do this? There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

Before we get going, I want to let you know that Little Hearts Academy has something really fun going on right now, a scavenger hunt. And there are 15 fun things for you to do with your kids during this cold season. And when you're done, you can scan your hunt paper and email it to me. And you will be entered in a drawing for one of two one hour sessions with me. I usually charge 77 bucks for one of these. And so take this opportunity to have some fun with your kids, and maybe get some of your parenting questions answered. And if you enjoy today's episode, please leave me a rating and review. Just so you know, five stars is the appropriate number of stars. And be sure to listen to the very end of the podcast and become one of my linger longers. Before we get started on today's show, I've got to give a shout out to my listener of the week, Ted, who recently gave us a five star rating and wrote fantastic. There is so much great information for new parents. And thanks so much for the review. It honestly takes just one minute to leave a review. And your five star ratings and reviews help us become more visible and help other families find us. So keep those reviews coming. 

I don't have many friends who have had to deal with the death of a child, just a couple. And it was devastating for the families. And one marriage didn't survive the grief. The remaining children had to suffer through yet another loss that of their family. And as a friend, I wanted to do all I could to help. And yet I knew that something just can't be fixed. And then there was the question of how to talk with my own children about what was going on with their friends. I've had two of my students lose siblings. One had a younger brother who died after an illness, and another who lost an older brother in a drive by shooting. Both were tragic and very difficult for my students to understand. Michelle banya has an organization called Good grief parenting. And this is to help families who are going through such tragic circumstances and understand how to help their surviving children manage through their own grief. And while such topics are so difficult, it is important to have these conversations so that we can help those who may need us in such times. Let's listen in. I am joined today by Michele Benyo. And she is just one of our amazing imperfect heroes that has so much to offer for our families and for our kids. And so Michele, I've just love for you to take a second and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michele Benyo  4:09  
Yes, well, thank you, DJ, I'm so happy to be here. And yes, an imperfect hero we all are. We just become heroes because life puts us in a place where we need to step up. And that's what happened to me. I was an early childhood parent educator working with families every day with young children like my own. My son was four and a half my daughter was 15 months. And I thought I had the best job in the world because I got to go to work every day with families with other parents and talk about how to make the world and life best for our children. But when my son was diagnosed with cancer, everything changed. I found myself in territory that I wasn't at all prepared for I had gone to school and you know, got my masters and family education, and I felt well prepared for what I was doing. But I hadn't had any training in dealing with. Well, actually, that's not true. I had taken one class with a professor who talked about loss of dreams in families. And this was certainly loss of a dream, my perfect little world with my siblings growing up together was shaken by a two and a half year journey with cancer, and, and then the eventual death of my son. And so I had to figure all of that out. And I was an educator at heart. So as I did this, I looked for resources, and there weren't any out there. This was actually 20 years ago. And I thought, I'm in a position to find what's there. But there really was nothing there. And there's a little bit more now. But I found it Good grief parenting, after raising my daughter, to help families figure out all those things that I found myself faced with when my son died. And his sister was then three and a half. And she said to me, mommy, half of me is gone. I didn't know how to parent, a child who said, half of me was gone. And yet I knew because I know the nature of early childhood development and identity development and that sibling relationship that half of her in, in a very real sense was gone.

DJ Stutz  6:42  
Wow, that's quite the story. So talk to me a little bit about good grief parenting and the direction that you come from.

Michele Benyo  6:51  
I realized as we do, I didn't have a lot of experience with grief. But I knew that grief was a heavy, awful thing to have strike a family and I didn't like it. I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want my daughter to have to deal with it. And that's where I started, I had to figure out well, we are dealing with it, whether I want to or not. So how can I make her life and my life and our family life the best it can be. And what I discovered on this journey was that grief is really misunderstood. And that's why I call my business Good grief parenting because grief is really a necessary part of healing. Some people try to heal from a loss by refusing grief and ignoring it and pushing it away. And those are really generally the people who don't heal and have a harder time. And so I learned that grief is really a very important part of healing. I learned that some of the things that I would have instinctually done as a parent wanting to make life better for my daughter, and even protect her from some things that I didn't like for her, were actually not the best things to do that the best things to do for her and for me, were to face grief and help her understand it, realize that it's a part of life that we all experience in childhood, not necessarily by the death of a sibling or a loved one. And so as I learned more about grief, and how we, as adults often do the wrong thing with children, because we don't understand it. I wanted to help adults recognize how we can help children face grief and live through it, and actually gain some very real life skills through the process of coping with grief and loss. So that's what I strive to do in good grief parenting.

DJ Stutz  8:55  
That's so interesting. And it seems to me, at least in my perspective, and experiences that you're going to deal with grief, it's either now or later. But it's gonna come and knock you in the face at some point. And I think, for me, as I think on things, and as I've dealt with students who have suffered through the loss of siblings, that oftentimes, it seems like the kids get a little bit lost in the shuffle sometimes. Have you noticed that?

Michele Benyo  9:25  
Oh, absolutely. You know, one of the books that I found that eventually that was really help helpful is called the worst loss, and it's about child loss. And people recognize so readily that when a parent loses a child, it's the most devastating thing that can happen to that parent, but they don't typically recognize that it's the worst thing that can happen to that child to my daughter was so perceptive and articulate at the age of three and a half to be able to put into words what that is experience of losing a sibling was for her. Very few children would do that. But they feel it they even if they're not saying it, they're feeling it. So yes, the parents loss is so readily recognized, but the child's loss just really isn't. And then when you couple that with the fact that adults want to protect children from how awful grief feels, children really are overlooked. Their grief really is not recognized. And yet, it is very deep. And really, they need help with it.

DJ Stutz  10:33  
I think sometimes I hear people, oh, they're young. They're young, they'll get over it. And I think that even Well, yeah, oh, kids are so resilient, which they are in a lot of ways, but they're more resilient when there's assistance in getting through that. And I know of people who lost a sibling, and in one case, even a twin when they were infants, and yet that loss, still, you know, they they suffered through that loss, and they've had to take time, at some point in their life and really manage through that. Like I said, if you don't deal with it now, you'll deal with it later.

Michele Benyo  11:12  
Yes, that's absolutely true. And one of the other story that I share about my daughter was that she was 15 months old, when her brother was diagnosed. And the first night that he went to the hospital, his dad went with him, and I was home with my daughter. And so her dad and her brother were gone. And she was feeling the tension of what our lives had been like before this absence. And she started walking upstairs and downstairs and walking to the garage door and walking to her brother's bad. And she was just wailing. She was making a sound that was inhuman it was, to me, I had never heard a person make a sound like this. And I would go to her and try to comfort her and she pushed me away and just throw herself on the floor, she was absolutely distraught. And she was 15 months old. And so that really set the tone for us as a family, because of course, her brother spent much of his two and a half years in the hospital. And when we were there with him, the two of us were there with him, we most often took her with us, because we recognized from that very first night, that this was part of her experience very deeply, as much as it was part of ours, and that we were not going to leave her alone with that feeling. And so, again, she was the little example for me that just from the very beginning, let me know that children indeed do feel all of these things. She was 15 months, yes, she was young, but she was experiencing this tragedy along with us. And that really shaped how we involved her in it, because we couldn't protect her from it. So instead, we allowed her to be exposed to it. We saw a lot of other adults in the hospital who didn't bring their other kids there because they didn't want their kids to see the little kids with bald heads and carrying around transfusion poles. And yeah, and hear kids crying in the room. But we exposed her to all of that. And she got to be with her brother and he was in a children's hospital. So they did a very good job of, you know, working with and supporting the sibling as well as the child. But it was a good experience for her to be able to experience that with the rest of us and know what was going on. And just be really aware of the reality that we were all sharing. That was a good thing for her.

DJ Stutz  14:05  
I think that's a really key point. I think using technical terms with kids, helping them instead of sugarcoating things making promises that you have no way of knowing whether that's going to be kept or not. That's not even in your hands. So how would you suggest, I guess early in the process before death occurs, but as because there's always that hope for that miracle, isn't there? And so I wonder if somehow that's almost as devastating as finding things out you hope and hope and hope and then you get crushed down and then you hope and hope and hope and so how do you help us young child through that process?

Michele Benyo  14:45  
The way you help a young child through it is the way that you need to get through it yourself. And I think the key thing is to recognize that children need the same support and that support says Sometimes horrible things happen. And we hope for the best. And we don't always get them. But we will carry on I had to live forward with my daughter thinking about making. I mean, hokey as it sounds, it's really true. making lemonade from the lemon that this experience in this loss was, and to help her understand what's real, and our son as well, when he was dying, he asked us one time before his seventh birthday, if we thought he would live to see a seventh birthday. We didn't think he would. And we said, No, honey, we don't think you will. I mean, we had these conversations with him. And what he was worried about was missing us, you know, I mean, he was he could manage it, she could manage it, they understood the truth, we share the truth. One of the things we do with kids his talk about death in a way that can be confusing to them. So it is important to say, this person could die, or when they die, this person died, their body stopped working, we can use this terminology, no matter how the person dies. And I did recognize there was a certain amount of advantage to having two and a half years to get accustomed to what was happening to us, and what eventually happened to our daughter to lose her brother. Sometimes the loss is sudden rise, no preparation for that, we need to use the word dead, the person died, they were hit by a car, it damaged their body, their body stopped working. That's what death is. And it's important to us that rather than just say they've gone away, they've passed some of those youth euphemisms that we use as adults. Because kids need to learn words that have meaning to them. And they need to understand what death is. Even though at the age of three, my daughter couldn't comprehend all about death that we knew he would grow into that understanding. And she had the accurate words. And so we can make things better for our children, which is, I think, kind of where you started with this question for me. So we shouldn't promise them, you know, I can't promise my daughter that I will always be here for her, for example, because now we know that's not true. But I'm with you now. We're going to feel better, we're going to be together, we're going to get through this together, I'm here for you, I understand how you're feeling, I feel that way to those kinds of reassurances for children help them to reinforce the reality that they're experiencing. And that's the best we can do for them and then model for them. The other piece is modeling for them, that we're living forward, that we're taking care of our horrible, difficult feelings, and we're going to be okay, and they see us taking care of ourselves as well. That's really important.

DJ Stutz  18:21  
I really agree. One of my things, whether I've been teaching in a preschool setting, or in a kindergarten setting, I don't ever tell a kid stop crying, because just the first day school and they're terrified, or, or you know, something's happened, they fell down, or some even if somebody just took their toy, you know, they're devastated inside. And so you give them permission to work through it, and to have those sad feelings and maybe just sit next to them. And allow them you know, and I think sometimes, and maybe even in this situation, maybe you come across in the work that you do with people are like, don't cry, it's gonna be okay. No, it's not. Okay.

Michele Benyo  19:00  
Absolutely. And that's life. And that's the thing that we as adults need to get past. Do we want this for our child? Do we want them to be sad? Do we want them to lose a loved one? Absolutely not. But it's very real, and very justified what they're experiencing. And so we teach them about those emotions. I mean, that's so much of the work that you do, DJ and then we all do with children of this age is really helped them say, yes, what you're feeling right now makes total sense. What's happened to you? And I'm not going to tell you to not feel that way. Crying is a really healing way to deal with grief. For example, for adults as well cry out, let the tears do their healing work because they do. And so yes, it's really honoring I talk about honoring grief. Because children's grief is different than adult grief in the way that they experience it and the way that they show it, but also the things that make them grieve. I mentioned that, that we all experienced grief in childhood. It's not always the death of a loved one, right? I remember my first experience of grief, which was when I was at the beach, I grew up on Lake of the Woods and northern Minnesota Lake of the Woods is huge, the water goes on forever off to the horizon. And I was playing on the beach writing this Wally the walrus blow up toy that I could sit on, and I fell off of him and he scooted away from me out into the water, and the wind took him and he started to go further out. And adults who could swim tried to reach him and nobody could. And I had to stand on the beach, and watch Wally the walrus float, float float further away, I watched him until he was a.on the horizon, and I knew I was never going to see him again. This is what grief is, it's the loss of something or change. That means it's never going to be the same again, we've lost something, we feel grief, I felt grief over losing that toy. And I still remember that feeling to this day that just in the pit of my being that I was never going to see him again. And there was nothing I could do about it. If this happened to me now, as an adult, I wouldn't feel grief, I've been disappointed. Yeah. But it wouldn't be grief, you know, I get over it. But as a child, that's grief. And so as an adult, we need to honor that we need to say, Oh, that's horrible. You're having so much fun. And it feels so that he's floating away and he's gone and you won't have him anymore, that really feels bad. We need to honor that with them as a child and recognize the ways that kids can feel grief and at loss so that they can learn how normal that is. And that we can go on and have people understand and honor their grief with them.

DJ Stutz  22:17  
I agree. And I think too, especially with the younger kids, you had a three and a half year old that was going through that. And part of what you said, and part of what I teach in my classroom is to help kids put a name to what they're feeling. And so a lot of times when I see kids come into my classroom, even in kindergarten, they struggle with putting names to things and so they tend to have happy, sad, tired, angry, mad, yeah, mad. And everything is angry if I'm jealous. Oh, that's angry. And so trying to help them divide those emotions out and giving an understanding of this emotion actually is different than Yeah, angry. And then if they're going through this grief, there are ton of different emotions that come with grief. It just isn't. There's there's loneliness and there's sorrow, and there's worry, and there's all of those things. How does your group do you really look into some of those things in helping kids? Yes,

Michele Benyo  23:23  
yes, it is so important to recognize that because a lot of times kids will act out, they'll be acting angry. I mean, we know that as adults, anger is something we express for a lot of different feelings, right? And we don't always recognize what's underneath it. And for children, this is really important as well, because we equate grief with sadness. And it isn't. It doesn't always look like sadness. In fact, a child who's grieving, maybe sitting on the floor, playing, looking like they typically look when they play, not necessarily looking sad. But if you pay attention to what they're playing, you may notice that it's a little different. But parents will often say Well, I think my child's doing okay, because they're playing well play. As you know, DJ is how they work through all kinds of things going on in their lives, including grief. And then we sometimes don't understand why the child is being more aggressive than usual. Because we're not recognizing that that irritability, that aggression, that belligerents, it can also be grief. And so the other thing I say about good grief parenting really when it comes down to it is it's just the way that every child deserves to be parented. And that is, when they're feeling a feeling. There's a reason for it. There's always a reason for it, and they don't have the skills to make To express that reason in another way, so we as adults really need to help them understand what their behavior and what their feelings mean to them. And there's always a good reason underneath that. So part of good grief parenting is helping parents recognize that, and then helping them reinforce for the child via behaviors that are more acceptable, we understand that a child's grieving, and that's why they're hitting their classmates, it's still not okay to hit their classmates that we can acknowledge and talk about what's making them behave that way. And then what do we say to the child, parents can recognize that they are supposed to try to help their child and accept what the child's feeling? But then what do they do with that? One of the resources that anyone listening to us today can actually go get from my website, is what I call the good grief guide. And it talks a lot about some of the ideas we have around children and grief that we maybe need to adjust a bit. And then how can we respond to children in a more helpful way. And I actually have some suggestions in this good grief guide. And my website is Good grief, Good grief, And right on the top of the homepage, you'll find a button to go get the good grief guide. And I would just recommend that any adult who's works with children knows children go get that because whether you're dealing with a loss now or not, you may in the future, you may know someone who has a situation in the future. And I just really would love for you to be equipped with some good information when you need it. So go get the good grief guide.

DJ Stutz  26:55  
Right. And I think what you said just brought up a point in my mind is that it may not even be your own family that's going through the grief, but it might be your child's best friend or a classmate or a neighbor across the street or whatever. And that even though they may not be a direct family member, that's still going to bring a lot of uncertainty and curiosity and all of those things with your child, and then trying to help your child maybe find effective ways to be a good friend, to the child suffering the loss, and that might help your own child work through it themselves to Yes,

Michele Benyo  27:35  
and the parents of your child's friends, my daughter, really my daughter as she grew. And part of the work that I do is help parents recognize that this loss is going to impact her through all of her growing up years of middle school, high school young adulthood, where she where she is now because I actually lost my son in 2000. But she used to go to friends houses, and sometimes would have real meltdowns. And the parents didn't know what to do with her and certainly didn't like it. So another thing that's important for adults to recognize is that this child has had this experience that is really impacting them, and how to be a more understanding adult. And as a parent, I tried to let people know her teachers that she had, that she'd had this experience and you know that that had impact on her. So all of this is helpful for all of us as adults to to just recognize how to talk differently to children who are experiencing and expressing this loss and this grief.

DJ Stutz  28:49  
Well, and I think too, as a teacher, so several years ago, I had a little girl and she'd always been pretty easy kid very intelligent, got along well with her friends. And one day she came into class and I was like, I didn't know who this kid was. She was just all of a sudden angry and and just a nightmare, rude and awful, and whatever. And so, as I talk to family, the end of the day, her eight year old brother had died the night before. And it was an illness, but it was a sudden, it wasn't a lingering illness. You know, it was something that had taken about a week or so to occur. And they sent it to school the next day, which I can somehow see maybe wanting to have some kind of normality or whatever plus, you know, maybe having a safe place for her to be while they're having to make arrangements that are difficult, but it sure would have been nice for me to as a teacher, so I could have helped her through it because the things that I was trying to do to just to get her to talk or or whatever she had just completely shut down and every response was very angry. So I think another point is that you can enlist the help of other people, you don't have to go this journey alone.

Michele Benyo  30:12  
Absolutely. And that's part of the protection piece. There's just so much our society doesn't share grief very well. So it's easy to understand why people when they're experiencing it don't want to put it out there, they feel like it's a burden on others, or they feel like people won't understand. They may even feel embarrassed or whatever. But yes, I as a society, we just need to do a better job of embracing how this impacts people and supporting them in it. And as parents, one of the biggest things we can do when we recognize that our child has this now, as a part of their experience for the rest of their life, does it destroy their lives? Does it destroy their chances for happiness? Of course not. But it has huge impact. And we need to be able to advocate for that child. So yes, I certainly involved. That's why I would always tell teachers, I think sometimes the teachers didn't know why I was telling them this, but I was telling them this so that if something happened that they didn't understand, maybe this little light bulb would go off. Or, you know, if she talked about her brother, and they knew her brother had died. And they know that's a different conversation than a child talking about a brother that's in the classroom down the hall. So it's so important to just allow other adults in on what's happening in our family, with our children, so that those kids and you as the great parent can have as much support as possible. Absolutely.

DJ Stutz  31:56  
Yeah, well into what a horrible thing to have to go through. So you don't want to stand in judgment and say, Oh, you could have handled that better with your daughter, you know, or your son or whatever. But yet, trying to maybe just be there. It's interesting. We did a show a few weeks ago on raising a child with disabilities, and how do you address that with the siblings of the child with disabilities, and so some five pretty familiar territory, I think, is there. But we talked about how, as a parent, you know, you go through a grieving process with that, and that people one of the things that her name was Clarissa Nelson, is the person I was talking to. But it was interesting that she said, there were some times people who would come over, wanting to help and to be of assistance or whatever. And they actually just made things worse. You know, and, and doing what they thought she needed, rather than what she really needed, or her feeling like, I can't really be myself, because these people are over. And so maybe if you were giving advice to a parent or a friend, or maybe their child's friend is going their families going through it, what's some advice that you would give them to help them be good neighbors and friends?

Michele Benyo  33:18  
I think the most and you're right, there are sort of two different pieces to that, because we went through her brother was the cancer boy, she went through her twos and threes, while he was going through cancer. And I was an early childhood parent educator. And, you know, I knew what to expect from her. But she was as good as a gold, she was the best little terrible to three years, because she didn't want to rock the boat. And we used to say to her, Deanna honey, it's okay for you to be mad. It's okay for you to be two and three. And so that was just another eye opener for me how kids can process this. But the people who recognize when a family's going through this, that the child is often overlooked. And when you come to the house, the people who would come and visit us and bring something for Deanna, and not just something for David, or would want to do something special for Deanna, as well as David, were really the people who got it, the friends to us as adults before and after the loss. Who didn't try to fix it didn't try to do for us, but just sad. I can't imagine how you're feeling right now. I don't know what I can do for you, but I'm here for you. If you want to talk or if you just want to sit or if you just want to go out for coffee. I'm here for you. I care about you. I'm Thinking about you and I'm here. That's really all you can do. Certainly don't tell them call us if you need anything because the person going through it has no idea what they need, right? And they're not going to call you. Right? I used to have people say to me, I was thinking about you. But I didn't call you because I didn't want to bother you. And I used to think, gee, I wish you'd called me and just told me you were thinking about me, that would have meant so much to me. And if I didn't want to talk to you, I didn't have to answer the phone. But you could have left a message saying, Michelle, and thinking about you. Yeah, so those are the things again, that those people were doing what they thought was best for me, they didn't want to bother me. That's a myth in our society, that when people are hurting, they don't want to be reminded that they're hurting. That's not true. They want people to say, I know you're hurting. I can't do anything about it. But I'm here for you.

DJ Stutz  36:03  
Right? Right. And think people are very different. I mean, just even my husband and I are very different. When I'm going through something I want to be surrounded by people I'm comfortable with, with people that I love. When my husband, he wants isolation. Just leave me alone. Let me work through it. And so I think knowing your friends well enough to recognize who they are. I know, we lost my dad very suddenly in a plane accident. So it was very, very sudden, there's seven kids in my family. And then you know, we were all starting, I think only one of us didn't have kids of our own at that point. So there was a ton of us there at my mom's house from all over the country. And I remember sitting in the kitchen, and I'm sitting on the counter, I mean, just with only family, the place was packed. And I remember watching this lady, she just walked in our front door didn't knock or anything came into the kitchen. And I'm just kind of watching like, Who is this, you know, open the kitchen door or the fridge. And I heard her say apples, they need apples, closed it and walked out. And an hour later, there was like a giant box of apples left at the front door, which was perfect for all the little kids that were there. Some people have an intuitive ability to, you know,

Michele Benyo  37:22  
yes, they do. And that's wonderful. I had a friend like that, too, who actually came over and said, I'm going to do your laundry. I really didn't need anyone to do my laundry. It wasn't like it was piling up. And I felt like I couldn't handle it. But it was the idea that she was thinking of things she could take off my plate, right. And sometimes in the years later, when I would think about what I'd been through and what I appreciated and what people didn't do. I would think of someone like that and think I wish I could be like that. Yeah, well, we aren't all like that. And you know what we don't have to be she wasn't the only one who helped me, again, when you are trying to help somebody just be who you are and care about them and say you're here. And if you're inclined to do something more direct than Yes, feel free to do that. And the whole key is to be kind of unobtrusive, but available because that woman came, looked at what you needed left and scented, she didn't hang out with you know, try to cheer you up. She just did what she felt was good for you. So there are all kinds of ways we can support each other.

DJ Stutz  38:40  
Yeah, I still to this day, don't know that that lady was but I'm sure my mom does. Just nice to be able to kind of do your best I think just a note even or a card. And there's so much that goes on. Tell me if I'm wrong. But I noticed this when my parents passed was right away. There was a lot of stuff. But then a month later when you're just really feeling it on all the hoopla was kind of calmed down. I remember getting a note from someone and it was a whole month after my dad passed. It just said I was thinking of you and I know that it still hurts. And that meant the world to me.

Michele Benyo  39:22  
Absolutely. Yes Just a note just letting people know you're thinking of them. That's really all you can do. And it does mean so much. The other thing is sharing memories of the love who died. The other thing is we don't want to bring sometimes we think well I don't want to bring that person up it's too painful. But we love for you to say our loved ones name and to say oh I remember the time your that David did this or I remember the time your dad did this. People we really love to hear that other people remember our loved one and are willing to share some of Those memories. And you know, it doesn't make us sad or were sad whether anyone talks to us about it or not, it's not going to make things worse. But it certainly can make things feel a little easier to know that people recognize that we're grieving. And remember our loved one.

DJ Stutz  40:19  
Yeah, this year will be the 30th anniversary of my dad. And I still like once in a while I'll come across someone who knew my dad when they were growing up or whatever. And I still love hearing those stories, you know, or thinks that I didn't know or that my dad touched them in some way. And so don't I would say, don't ever feel like, oh, it's been five years. But I think even then to send a note and say, hey, you know, I was thinking about you and your son, and I remembered this ex story. I think that's a great gift.

Michele Benyo  40:53  
Yes, it is. It is a great gift. I don't think anyone would feel any differently about that.

DJ Stutz  40:59  
Exactly. Exactly. So Michelle, I always ask my guests the same question. As we start winding down. How would you describe a successful parent,

Michele Benyo  41:11  
a successful parent is really a parent who is simply there for their child in the best way they know how to be. They're aware of their child's needs, as well as their own needs, and they're just trying to do the best possible job that they can. I mentioned self care earlier, that's such an important part of being a good parent is recognizing when you really just kind of need to take care of yourself a bit. That's a good thing. When you hear something from what I said on this podcast are any one of DJs other episodes or anywhere else, some advice that you think, Oh, my gosh, I didn't do that. You're still a wonderful parent, you have your own wisdom, you need to trust your own wisdom, and you're doing the best that you can for your child. And that's really, all it takes, you are never going to be perfect. But you're going to be a good enough parent, as long as you love and care about and seek to support your child.

DJ Stutz  42:19  
That's fantastic. I totally agree with you totally agree with you. And even if the whether it's in my podcast or some other podcast, even if you just hear one thing, that you thought, oh, that might work for my family, or I might try that and you're willing to take that risk. And give that a try. I always admire parents who are willing to take that risk and try something new. Do overs

Michele Benyo  42:45  
are really important are good for kids, and they're good for adults. Just you know what I'm going to do over Yes, try that again.

DJ Stutz  42:53  
Yep. Oh, I messed that one up. Let's start over. I love it. I love it reminds us again of your website. And then are you on any of the socials are? How can people get you? Yes,

Michele Benyo  43:03  
I'm at Good grief. That's where you can get my good grief guide, good grief., you can reach out to me there as well schedule a call with me. I'm on Instagram, also good grief parenting, and you can see me there, find out when I'm on another podcast, reach out to me there. I would just love to hear from any of you. And hope that I can support some of you to just be the best parent you can be to your precious child.

DJ Stutz  43:37  
I love that. I love that. Well, thanks so much for joining us and for sharing your experience in your knowledge and continuing to share this important topic and making sure that our little ones just don't get lost in their own grief. Yeah,

Michele Benyo  43:53  
thank you, DJ, it was really wonderful being here with you... Grateful to you for the opportunity.

DJ Stutz  43:58  
No, you're bad. We'll talk to you again soon. Michele makes such an important point in that we need to allow our children to have their emotions and help them feel understood and loved. It is so important that they know it's okay to be sad and angry and frustrated as they move through. Using accurate words for what is happening is important to help children understand. And I thought Michelle's use of telling her daughter that the body was broken and wouldn't work anymore, was a great way to explain this. And the truth is that they won't see that loved one again in this life. And so you don't need to come up with other stories that will confuse children. Young children often look at situations with a different understanding than adults do. And we may think that we're explaining clearly, but their ability to comprehend will adjust their outlook. I remember a few weeks after my pops died My grandpa's got on an airplane to fly from Boise to Los Angeles to spend some time with my family. And as my aunt and her family took gramps to the airport, it was traditional back then to wait and watch the plane takeoff. And when Graham's plane began to ascend, my very young cousin began to cry. And then she said that she didn't want grandma to die. Why was she going up to heaven to see Poppy, the explanation that pops was up in heaven, and where heaven was, had confused her young mind, Michelle, and I didn't have the chance to talk about where faith comes in. And what that can mean, just as the explanation of Heaven ended up confusing my cousin, it is important to use accurate terminology. And it's my experience, that children are often more capable of understanding things than we can give them credit for. So I put a link to the good grief parenting website, on our show notes. So be sure to check them out. Hopefully, it's nothing you have to deal with now. And God forbid, it won't be something that you have to deal with in the future. But it's always good to know where the resources are, and know what to say in those terrible moments, whether it's yourself or a family member, or friend that is going through such an awful thing. So we have another opportunity to dive deeper into whatever topic the podcast is talking on. And that is on our Tuesday night Facebook live events. You can find it on my page, which is Little Hearts Academy, USA. And this is an opportunity for you to ask questions, to share stories about our topic. And if you wind up missing it, it's okay. We're starting to post them on my YouTube channel, which is Little Hearts Academy USA, so you can check us out there. Are you up to date on all things imperfect heroes? Register for my free newsletter at Little Hearts Academy USA and never miss a beat. And in my next episode, I am talking with Amy Buckley, who was a teacher in Northern California. And with all the disruptions in learning in the past two years, and the disruptions that continue in a variety of ways. We had a great conversation about how to understand what your child is needing help with and then how to find that help. Learn what I mean by tuning into our next episode. And until then, let's find joy in parenting

Linger longers so if you live in the northern hemisphere, I'm sure you've noticed that the temperatures are lowering with the season. We know that children who spend time outside even in the colder temperatures statistically have stronger immune system and stronger social skills. So grab your coat and gloves and head outside with your kids. Everyone will be better for it. Okay, I'm gonna go now

Transcribed by

Michele G BenyoProfile Photo

Michele G Benyo

Early Childhood Parent Coach and Grief Specialist

Michele Benyo is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, an early childhood parent coach, and the founder of Good Grief Parenting. After her 6-year-old son died of cancer, her 3-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, half of me is gone.” This heartbreaking statement defined Michele’s life purpose. Her mission is twofold: to help parents through the unimaginable challenges of parenting while grieving the death of a child, and to help parents meet the unique needs of a child who has lost a sibling in the early childhood years. The desire of Michele’s heart is to see families live forward after loss toward a future bright with possibilities and even joy.