Transforming Grief: An 8-Year Old Boy's Journey after the Death of His Father

 

A case study by Katharine James, student of Lindsay Fauntleroy’s / Oceans and Rivers FES Certification Program

FES notes: This case shows a notable metamorphosis in P.E.’s dealing with the loss of his father and older brother, and his place in the family, with his drawings as their own language showing increasing clarity, inner strength and resolve. With the loss of his father through death, and older brother through moving, this young boy is finding his own masculine self, and inner sense of strength. Mariposa Lily and Baby Blue Eyes were foundational for P.E. In the concluding portion of his therapy, he writes firm and clear “I am smart…fast…strong…creative…friendly.”

Please note: click on images to see larger images of the drawings.

Wounding of father and mother relationships

Desire to grow in strength and stamina

Feelings begin to find expression

A mixture of feelings in regard to his family begins to emerge

Abilities which P.E. wishes to emulate

Embracing new-found strength and ability

Synopsis of drawings and progression of P.E.’s healing journey

Wounding of father and mother relationships

P.E. is an eight year old biracial boy. His mother is white American and his father was African from Nigeria. Just over a year prior to starting flower essences, P.E.’s 51 year old father who had been the primary caretaker, had died suddenly while at work. Approximately a year prior to his father dying, his oldest brother who had lived with them for as long as P.E. could remember, moved across the country to live with his mother. P.E.’s mother says the reason she likes him to have flower essences is for “an overall feeling of getting support and attention.” She states he is stubborn and has had tantrums when wound up. The main areas he exhibits difficulty in are his relationships with siblings, co-operation, friends, and compassion.

Following the loss of his father, the family is learning to adjust to being a family of three. This transition time in their lives has not been easy. Although they have had tremendous support from their community, his mother has a full time job which requires some amount of travel and runs a business as well. All three members of the family have shifted in the responsibilities that they each have. Without the father present as the steady caretaker, P.E.’s mother continues her full time job and running a business, and the boys are often left in the care of each other or community members, with P.E.’s older brother, at the age of 13, becoming more of a caretaker in his role.

The major issues in this case are feelings of loss of self: finding his place in community and family, P.E.’s feelings around the death of his father, and the loss of his oldest brother living in the same household along with his difficulty in verbalizing these feelings. While he expressed anger, somewhat at his mother and a lot at his older brother with whom he lives, he did not talk about feelings in depth, which is not surprising considering his developmental stage of life. We are able to gain deeper glimpses into his process of going through the stages of grief and other feelings through his drawings, and interactions talking about what he would like from the remedies he takes. The main issues he spoke about directly were complaints of having nightmares and being afraid of monsters, and anger and fear towards his older brother. He also spoke about missing his oldest brother.

While he did not express direct feelings in great detail around the loss of his father, he did verbalize loss of his sense of self following the death of his father. P.E. used art to express himself and show changes more than he did with words.

P.E. is very active in sports, and feelings were sometimes expressed through how he sees himself performing in sports and fantasy games. During his second cycle session, he talked about having been stronger, and faster and better all around in sports when he was five. (His father died when he was 6 years old, and his oldest brother left the family home when he was 5 years old). During sessions, he repeatedly requested to be stronger and faster and smarter. By the last session he expressed confidence in his performance in sports and in overall strength and ability following his flower essences.
 
The core flower essences used in all the remedies were Mariposa Lily and Baby Blue Eyes. These two essences represent parenting and the earthly Mother and Father figure that are absent in P.E.’s life. The death of his father and the plans for his mother to be going on business trips, working full time and running a business, means it is not uncommon for P.E. to be left with his brother to care for him or with family friends. Baby Blue Eyes is especially important in lives where there has been abandonment in any form by the father.
 
Angelica is used often to give him the support and connection with the spiritual world, a feeling of being protected and looked after by the spiritual realm, especially important to keep the connection with his father who transitioned to the spirit realm so suddenly. Star of Bethlehem is also used as support for the traumatic events that have so filled P.E.’s life.

Baby Blue Eyes and Mariposa Lily are two essences that were used throughout the cycles. It very much felt like P.E.’s talk about his physical abilities were a shell he is wrapping himself in. Mariposa Lily is used at any time there may be feelings of neglect from the mother. While the mom here is reaching out and expresses much love and concern, she works long hours and is not always able to be present. For the first seven years of his life, his father was in the “mothering” role of preparing him for school, getting many of the meals together, taking him to school, arranging playdates, etc.

Desire to grow in strength and stamina

I started this session with showing P.E. some figurines of royalty, knights, and other fighters and some mythical creatures. P.E. was drawn to the centaur and said that it was his favourite. It was interesting that the one figure that is part human and part animal, rather monster like, is the one that he chose as his favourite. (Most of the figures were humans or fey).

As he played, I asked him questions and we talked. He told me he wants to “get in shape” and wants to have more “strength, speed and stamina.” He talked about using the highest speed on the treadmill “to get me faster running.” When talking about stamina, he shared that he “could run faster when I was five, and now I can’t.” I noted to myself at the time that when he was aged five was before the death of his father, and around the time that his older brother left to live with his mother. While Centaury was given for its ability to strengthen, Rock Water softens often allowing the work of the flowers to start, and Star of Bethlehem can be like an embrace of protection. I felt that combined together, these essences provided a safe path for this child to be able to communicate to me one of the ways that the traumas in his life had affected him. Mom told me at the end of the session that she has a new boyfriend and so the family has been shifting again, and I felt Walnut’s energy around transitions was useful as well.

P.E. mentioned having more nightmares. He talked about a person growing a horse head with shark teeth. I asked P.E. if he would like to draw for me. He eagerly accepted the paper and colored pencils.
The first drawing he drew was this one:

When I asked him to tell me about it, he told me it was an Alligator Hunting. When I asked if it had anything to do with his dream, he denied it.

The second drawing:

When he first finished drawing the picture, there was only the one stick figure with a sword on the head of the monster. I asked him if he was in the picture, and he told me he wasn’t. The figure on the monster’s name is Sean. I asked if he knows a Sean, and he denied knowing anyone by that name. I asked him where he was in the picture, and he drew himself on the Cyclop’s sword.

P.E. also talked about his relationship with his older brother a little, saying his relationship was “worse with N.E.” and says that “he laughs and says now you're starting to talk about your emotions,” and that N.E. lies about P.E. saying he hits him on purpose. His brother is a lot bigger, and looking at the picture, I also wonder if Sean is actually his brother, large and looming on top while P.E. sees himself as being lower and smaller.
 
Mountain Pride became the central essence of his next remedy. The stick figures are both warrior like, and the Cyclop himself is portrayed as a warrior with a sword in each hand. When talking to his mother afterwards, she also mentioned P.E.’s sportsmanship and told me she would like to see him less focused on winning or losing when he plays chess. Mountain Pride as the flower of the Spiritual Warrior, brings a more positive and spiritually aligned energy rather than competitiveness and aggression.

Feelings begin to find expression

There were many big changes for this family since I last saw them. The Mom was in a relationship with a man she had dated years earlier. She was talking about spending time with him.

P.E. mentioned about having anger sometimes and being mad at his Mom sometimes. He told me “she’s not mean but she says I lose things.” Mariposa Lily seemed even more important now, that the mothers’ mothering was being questioned; and Baby Blue Eyes is also very important to assist with any feelings of not being emotionally supported and the loss of his father. Chicory was introduced into this round to support feelings of abandonment. Star of Bethlehem felt like it would still be supportive, and needed at this point in time for the embrace it is able to impart.

In this session, P.E. was much more communicative. He started out by drawing this picture:

In this picture he drew a light bulb and wrote “more ideas more energy”. It shows a picture of him hitting the punching bag in his home and a picture of him running. There is a feeling of him using his energies in a positive way, perhaps an indication of Mountain Pride’s work. He talked about feeling stronger and faster now. When I asked if he could change anything about what he can do with his body, what would it be, he talked about super powers and wishing he could fly or teleport to the Amazon and see wildlife or go to the Himalayas to skydive. The feeling I had was that he felt more satisfied with his physical body at present.

His mother felt that he had improvement of self-image and personal identity; reduction in general anxiety or stress; generally felt more positive and resilient. He certainly felt more open when talking to me and shared a lot more in this session than in others.

He also talked about “kind of getting along with N.E.” and not having as many fights. He also claims to have had no dreams and no nightmares that he could remember. If felt as if the last remedy of Baby Blue Eyes- Mariposa Lily-Chicory had set up a platform for him feeling more secure within himself.

A mixture of feelings in regard to his family begins to emerge

As he played with the figurines that I brought, he continued to talk. He reported that he felt “kind of happy” and “kind of sad” all of the time. He talked about becoming sad when one of his friends ignores him, a friend he’s had his whole life. When I directly asked him if he thinks about his father, he told me that he thinks about him a lot. Star of Bethlehem-Deerbrush-Chicory energies felt pertinent to his being able to open about his feelings and talk about his father.

P.E.’s mother had some short out of town trips since last seeing me. P.E. tells me that he stays with a friend of his brother’s family. His brother takes him to school often on the city bus, and P.E. is able to walk from the bus stop, across the street from the school by crossing with the light and the crossing guard.
 
During this session, I asked P.E. if he would draw a picture of his family. The picture that he drew was interesting as it showed each of the family members compartmentalized in boxes. They each have their own space on the page and none of them interact with each other. With the exception of himself, I cannot recall which figure he drew first. He spent quite a bit of time drawing the following picture:

When he originally finished drawing the picture, the top 6 figures were present. I pointed out that the most important person in the family was missing, he looked puzzled and asked: “My Grandma?” I then told him that it was him missing. He took the pad back from me and added himself on the bottom. I asked him what he could tell me about the picture, and as he looked at it he said “my mother is small.”

It was perhaps an error on my part, but I also noticed out loud that he had left the mouths off of his two half sisters on the top and his half brother beside his mother. He grabbed the pad back from me immediately and drew the mouths in. The largest of the figures is his oldest brother.

After we spoke about the picture, we talked about what he would like from the next remedy. He listed three things he would like it to help him be: 1) more friendly, 2) creative and 3) to remember better. He told me he wanted to name the potion ‘Redeem Potion”. I asked him what redeem meant, and he told me it means “to get better at something you did bad so you need to redeem yourself to get better”. I asked if he felt he needed to be redeemed, and told me that he sometimes “feels like he did something wrong” but “can’t remember what I did bad”. Pine was added in the next remedy.
 
I decided to add Buttercup to this next remedy, to bring a gentle self awareness and self worth, partly from the above conversation, and because of the fact that he left himself out of the picture all together at the beginning. I used Sweet Pea; he has had three different homes in three years, there has been frequent traveling and staying with different families while his mother travels, all along with the death of his father and his brother moving away.

While we talked about his father, he told me that he does feel his father’s presence, and I felt that adding Angelica into the mix would be beneficial. Baby Blue Eyes, Mariposa Lily and Star of Bethlehem all felt as if they continue to be relevant and that their energies would continue to be useful in this mix.

Abilities which P.E. wishes to emulate

Most of this session's talk revolved around the games and characters from an afterschool program he attends, Brooklyn Game Lab. Many of the games that P.E. plays have a Mythical nature to them and he talks about a show, “The Seven Deadly Sins,” in which there are several races, his favourite being Goddesses, which is what he would choose to be “because they can resurrect the humans.”

His first drawing was this one:

This dragon’s abilities are listed in the drawing above.
 
Apparently in this game, if you beat the dragon you win, if you fail, you go back to the beginning.

When I asked him what the Dragon’s opponent would look like, he drew this picture:

As we talked about this picture, he explained that Dr. Colloso is part of the Tree Arc, which are elements and similar to magic. The Arc he described as a Weakness. This creature’s strengths are Black Holes, which he explains is Wisdom, Four Legs that Kick, which is Strength (and he has another Four Legs to stand on), and he is Invisible, which provides Stealth.

As we talked he mentioned that his brother, N.E. would be Dr. Colloso “cause he is stronger than me and we’re friendly enemies.” He talked about feeling scared around N.E. when he threatens him although he says he never carries through with threats. P.E. admitted to threatening his brother with telling their mother on him for any infractions as well.

It was difficult with the subject of these games, to get a real feel about how the last remedy had come through. Sweet Pea’s and Buttercup's energy felt like it was at the surface. P.E. excitedly told me about his job at school. He was Table Captain.

There was a feeling that he was more light hearted during this visit, also that he wasn’t very interested in talking about personal matters but very interested in talking about his games. There was one final drawing that he started:

This drawing shows legs with 5 long necks and faces on top. Each of the faces has a slightly different expression, ranging from angry to sad and surprised. When asked, P.E. didn’t want to talk about the drawing though, and said he messed it up.

I decide to lay out cards for P.E. to choose. I put down all the cards from his previous remedy: Angelica, Baby Blue Eyes, Mariposa Lily, Star of Bethlehem, Pine, Buttercup and Sweet Pea. I also included Centaury, Rock Rose and Mimulus, Chicory, Deerbrush and Mountain Pride. Of these cards he first chose Angelica, Star of Bethlehem, and Baby Blue Eyes. When I asked if there were any others, he picked Mountain Pride and Deerbrush.
 
I placed the fear remedies, Mimulus and Rock Rose into the mix to choose from because he had mentioned being scared a few times, and I realized I hadn’t used them at any point. He didn’t choose either of them, so we didn’t add them this time either.

Embracing new-found strength and ability
 
This was our last session, and I met with P.E.’s mother for a bit first. She also spent some time writing about P.E.’s experience while I was seeing him. Mom wrote that P.E. had a “General feeling of well-being and support” from taking the flower essences as well as a reduction in general anxiety and stress, and indicated that he also felt more positive and resilient.

The overall sense I get from working with P.E. is that he is feeling more supported and safer, all aspects of the workings of Star of Bethlehem which supported all the flowers in bringing calm and restoration after trauma.

When talking about his next remedy, P.E. again talked about wanting Strength to work out more, Agility to be faster when playing soccer and Stamina to help him run longer. I asked him if he would like to draw a picture and he readily agreed. The picture is here:

P.E. describes this picture of a creature called Osborn as part monkey for increased speed and climbing ability, part bat for more balance and ability to hang from stuff, part human for the body and brain, part bird to be able to fly, part frog to give it suction cups to help it land if the bat part doesn’t work, part spider to see more things like danger and part demon to make it stronger.

He told me againabout a show he really likes called the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ and explained that there are different races. The ones he described to me were Humans, Demons, Goddesses (and Gods), and Fairy. He said he would choose to be of the Goddess race because “they can resurrect the humans and they can’t die.” When I heard him describe this race, I felt that keeping Angelica in the remedy was called for to continue to help him feel connection with his father, who while unable to be resurrected can still offer protection and guidance from the spirit realm.

For the next drawing that P.E. drew, I asked him if he could draw himself. It was quite different from all the others, and he used words in it more than he had in the past.

His words are bold and clear. It certainly shows huge transition from the first drawing of himself when he inserted himself into the picture as an afterthought and barely visible.

Synopsis of drawings and progression of P.E.’s healing journey

In the first session, we talked about wearing armor as protection. In the second session, he talked about feeling less athletically able than he had when he was five years old. During the third session, he talks more about wanting to be more creative and more friendly. By the third session, he is starting to notice fewer bad dreams, and is able to start talking about missing his father when asked. He also shows that he is feeling more confident intellectually when he draws a light bulb and talks about more ideas and more energy. And the picture of himself with the punching bag and running shows him smiling and appearing to be energetic. By the final cycle, in his drawing, he announces: “I am smart. I am fast. I am strong. I am creative. I am friendly.” Through his art work, we are able to see and hear how these remedies are manifesting.

His artwork evolved to show a progression of where he feels he stands in space, from the first drawing of a warrior named Sean who is standing and attacking a monster, where he adds himself much smaller and in a vulnerable place upon the monster’s sword, only as an afterthought, to the final picture of himself standing proudly with the strong words of self knowledge. 

By the last session, he is able to identify how he feels in his body when he is scared: “my hair frizzles up”, when he is angry: (sensation) “in my hands.” He is starting to explore with whom he feels he can communicate his feelings, feeling safer with his mother than his older brother, and admitting to being able to tell his oldest brother about his feelings of loneliness and sadness as well.
 
Through his drawings of monsters, we see how he looks at physical attributes, such as extra legs as being protective allowing for physical finesse, and the picture of the many headed monster he claimed was a mistake, shows different expressions of emotions on each of the faces.

About Katharine James

Katharine James of Alignment Whole Health, Brooklyn, NY, is a certified flower essence practitioner, registered yoga teacher and a registered nurse.  She has worked in healthcare for 30 years, with people in all stages of life.  She is the mother of three children ranging in age from 19 years to 9 years old and has many years of experience working with children and parents as a mother, volunteer breast feeding support person, yoga teacher and a nurse.

She worked for many years with women who survived sexual trauma.  Katharine has assisted individuals and families in times of major transition from birthing through to death in finding a balance between allopathic and alternative forms of healing.  For more information, see her website www.alignmentwholehealth.com.
 


 


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