Dear Vicki: My teenage daughter Stacy’s best friend Rachel was killed in a car accident last winter. Stacy and Rachel were very close and it has been a horrible time for Stacy. I’ve been as supportive with her process as possible, but there’s been no laughing, giggling, or joy in the house since the accident. A cloud has covered the sun of our family life and I think it’s time for things to get back to normal. Our family has a big vacation planned for the end of summer, something that’s been in the works for over a year, but Stacy still isn’t herself. She’s functional, but doesn’t laugh, isn’t very interested in the trip, stays in her room a lot, and is still withdrawn from the family. This is such a change from how she used to be: She was funny, outgoing, loved parties, and laughed all the time. I know she’s a Fire, but there’s no Fire in her now. I understand the need to grieve, but I’m losing patience. As her mother, is it appropriate for me to step in more firmly and demand that she snap out of it? This is affecting our whole family. Signed: Running Out of Patience
Dear Running: It’s always hard when someone we love passes over. The joy goes out of life. We feel empty, alone, and shaken. Grief takes up residence in our hearts and appears to settle in for a permanent stay. How long this lasts will vary greatly. You don’t mention if Stacy has ever experienced the loss of someone close to her, but if this is the first time, it’s important to support her and allow her the time she needs to process the loss. It’s also important to answer any and all questions she may have and offer wisdom from whatever religious or philosophic traditions your family embraces. And I believe there are ways that the Five Elements can help with the process, too.
The element that holds grief and letting go is Metal and no matter what our primary element is, we all usually become temporary members of the Metal Club when dealing with loss. The goal, of course, is that we use the solitude and synthesizing aspects of Metal as a safe haven while we process the grief, then return to our normal, balanced self. However, sometimes we can get stuck in that Metal place. With too much Metal energy, we find it hard to let go of the past and move forward.
When this happens, we need Fire energy because Fire melts Metal (Fire relates to Metal on the Controlling Cycle). The good news for you and Stacy is that as a primary Fire element, it will be easier for Stacy to tap into Fire energy and when it’s time, move out of Metal back to Fire. But the timing matters. It’s unwise to rush grief; it needs to be fully processed for the healing to be complete. And on this topic, I want to offer you a word of caution.
You don’t mention what your primary element is, but it sounds like you could be a Wood. Stressed Woods can become unnecessarily impatient, so please do check in with your mother’s heart and make sure you believe it is time to move Stacy gently out of Metal. It’s not impossible that the impatience you’re feeling could be more about your Wood and the potential that all you’ve invested in planning this trip might be ruined. Woods love to plan and do form concrete expectations around their plans. Dashed plans and expectations don’t sit well with Woods, so please consider this possibility. That said, as her mother, you are probably the best person to determine when that time is right for Stacy to rejoin the world.
Assuming you determine it has been plenty of time, there are many ways you can help bring back Stacy’s Fire. First, remember that Fires love activity. Is there something you know Stacy used to love doing? It’s best not to pick something she often did with Rachel, of course, but Fires usually have plenty of activities they love, especially if it involves quick and fun connections with others. Are there any concerts coming up in your area? Or maybe a fun event at a local park? Summer is Fire’s season, so anything that gets Stacy outside right now will help with her Fire. Since even a little time in the sun will make a positive difference, try coaxing Stacy outside every sunny day.
Other ways to help build Fire include giving Stacy a garnet bead to wear 24/7 for a while (make sure it touches her skin), encouraging her to wear red clothing (as a Fire, she probably already has a substantial number of red items in her wardrobe), or buying rosemary essential oil and asking Stacy to dab a little behind her ears each day (the scent of rosemary helps balance Fire). Spicy food also builds Fire, so if Stacy has favorite dishes that are spicy, making those for her on a regular basis will help, as well.
Finally, remember that Wood feeds Fire on the Nurturing Cycle, so you are the perfect person to be around Stacy to help build her Fire. If she’s hanging out in her room, knock on the door and ask if she has a minute to talk. Just being in your Wood energy will feed her Fire. You can chat about anything that’s relevant (or even irrelevant); the point is to be with her. This might be the time you suggest a few of the activities mentioned above (concerts, walks in the sun, etc.) and encourage her to go with you. Her heart is hurting and no matter how old we are, when we hurt, our mother is one of the people who can soothe us. Time with you will help heal Stacy’s heart, which carries Fire energy, and bring her back to balance. I have no idea how long this will take, or how your vacation will go, but I do know that everything you do will help remove the cloud blocking Stacy’s Fire. Blessings to you and your family.