"Ma'm, do you want to see my "stork pose?" I looked into the earnest,lonely eyes of a young boy, who had, just that morning, rolled his eyes at the "lame" concept of doing yoga to ease his broken heart. Now, he sought me out, to share his success with the pose, and to gain approval and gentle attention, something missing in his life since his mother's death. Emulating the bird that stands on one leg had taught my young friend about patience, mental focus, concentration, and the inter-connectedness of his body-mind.
We were both spending four summer days at CAMP COURAGE, a grief outreach program offered by a local hospice. He had lost his mother to cancer. I had agreed to facilitate the Yoga component of the program. We were both in for a life changing experience.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1.5 million children living in single-parent homes because one parent is deceased. One out of every twenty American children under fifteen will suffer from the loss of one or both parents.
My awareness of HOW KIDS GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY was first apparent to me as I drove between my hospice families' homes in rural GA. I delivered end of life care, symptom management, and especially, I pronounced the home hospice patients who died on my watch.
Adults often cry openly, respond with anger or seek solice in faith. "At least she is in a better place", I would hear. They cried and consoled each other. But the children behaved differently. I sat with one little girl, waiting for the funeral home transport to arrive, as she lamented, "Look at those kids! They are eating, and playing as if nothing has happened! They don't even miss Gran!"
This young girl was the exception. Her siblings were exhibiting normal grieving behavior for their ages. Children have no experience, no coping tools, to process the unfathomable idea that this person, and one day, they,too, will cease existance as we know it. So they strive, with another activity, to change the uncomfortable feelings they can't put into words. I have learned the most from asking my adult friends to recall their childhood grief memories.
"I loved my Gramp, but but I couldn't stand thinking about him dying any more," my friend confided. "I grabbed a softball, went outside and tossed it around. People saw me playing and thought I was not hurting, or that I didn't understand, I WAS! I just couldn't stand the pain!"
Kids understand, usually at about age 8, that death is permanent. They find this concept very upsetting. At this time, they need a sense of security and order from an adult that will allow them to ask questions and provide comfort. They also need peer support, to be like the other kids, not singled out as different. A class of kids who have experienced similar losses is hadr to find in the outside world, but, classes or grief camps help them relate to others who understand in a safe environment.
WHY YOGA IS A PERFECT FIT: Kids naturally relate to animals. By emulating an animal, they appreciate,and adopt it's virtues. All have seen a dog stretch after a nap, and know DOWN DOG pose will bring energy and flexibility to their backs and hips. The COBRA imparts stamina and agility; balance poses bring strength and patience, mental focus and concentration. Kids totallt "get it!" THE BODY IS AN OUTER MANIFESTATION OF THE MIND. Our posture reflects our sadness. Poses that open those "blocked", sad areas, in the throat and chest, especially, unstick the physical regions where we hold our sorrow. Counter-poses are learned that open these areas most affected by grief. All have exoperienced a lump in the throat, "downhearted" pressure in the chest, sighing or sobbing that leaves the throat feeling like one swallowed a peach seed, are physical ways we bear our grief. In adopting the poses, the body and brain are flooded directly with seratonin, the "feel good" hormones of the anterior pituitary. Breathing quiets the frontal cortex of the brain, breath rate slows, deepens. Impurities are purged. Children learn that this "TIME IN", a feel-good place, is within them, a place of comfort and calm. MEDITATIVE HEALING is part of the rest period at the end of class. One learns to direct thoughts of relaxation and increased circulation, healing, to each area of their bodies. Affirmations that introduce forgiveness, gratitude, joy, acceptance, and self care bring campers coping tools to manage this very human condition of suffering...the inevidible losses of those we love in our lives. We conclude the hour with HUNSASANA, where each camper lays on the floor, resting his his head on another's belly, as each thinks of a "funniest memory". The room fills with gleeful laughter, joy on tap, in this group of previously sad-hearted young people, who have a new lifelong tool to cope with life's inevidible suffering.
Both YOGA FOR A GRIEVING HEART & the ebook, are available to design a class or for self study Yoga For a Grieving Heart practice.

Author's Bio: 

Lorna Bell is a hospice nurse, a long time yoga student, and grandmother of 8. Her other titles are:
GENTLE YOGA, (LOW IMPACT YOGA) for people with Arthritis, Stroke Damage, MS & in Wheelchairs, co-authored with Eudora Seyfer, 1982-2007, Celestial Arts
HAPPY ENDINGS, Uplifting End of Life Stories, 2000: 2nd ed., 2006
MORE HAPPY ENDINGS, the sequel, 2006
ebook: YOGA FOR A GRIEVING HEART, 2008 at www.yogaforgrief.com