Significant Emotional Experiences

Life is made up of Significant Emotional Experiences (SEEs.)  SEEs define who we are and who we could become.  We encounter them continually, and looking at them is looking at a timeline of our lives.  The SEE’s and our responses to them shape who we are.  

SEEs change perspectives, outlooks, actions and thoughts moving forward.  What we each learn from our personal SEEs affects how we react to situations in the future.

When a trauma, such as the death of a loved one, occurs our personal “balance” is knocked out of alignment.  The weight of the world is on our shoulders, and our ability to regain a healthy equilibrium in our life can seem difficult, even impossible.  In times like this, the trauma (negative SEE) can seem so overwhelming that we are unable to recognize the opportunities (positive SEEs) that are being presented to us.

Trauma, such as grief, is a horrific emotional experience—a negative multisensory overload that can affect us physically, mentally, and psychologically.  But, the affect of a negative SEE in the past, can be balanced out by a continued flow of positive and present SEEs.

As a parent or mentor of a child traumatized by a negative SEE, such as the death of a loved one, it is important to help the child seek out positive SEEs to regain balance.

Every day presents us with opportunities to truly connect with the children in our lives.  Every 10 minute car ride, every commercial break during a favorite TV show, every long line you get stuck in at the grocery store, can be a chance to organically and authentically connect with a child.  Looking back, these are the moments that really count. 

Time and time again, when kids at camp tell us what they would do if they had one more day with the person who died, we hear similar answers.  They want to go fishing, see a favorite movie, or go to the park down the street.  They crave, and desperately miss, those everyday moments that we sometimes take for granted. 

The casual nature of these conversations can be so much more impactful than the seemingly forced nature of a conversation with a therapist or counselor. Think of all of the truly powerful conversations you have had in your life.  Consider which of these happened because someone sat you down, stared at you, and pointed out that something was wrong with you, that something in you needed “fixing.”  Now consider which of these happened because someone gave you the space and trust to just open up and be your own true self. 

Children are no different. They also crave honesty and openness, and a chance to connect with the people who are present in their daily lives. Therapy can be a powerful addition to this process, but we shouldn’t and can’t expect it to be the magical cure to a hurting child’s heart.  We also shouldn’t and can’t expect ourselves to turn every interaction with a child into a perfect and meaningful emotional moment.  We need to recognize and respect that the perfect moment for us may not be the perfect moment for them.   What we can do is open ourselves up to the possibilities, and assume that the children in our lives want to talk, want to share, want to have fun, and want to connect with us.  If we assume that, we’ve already taken the first important step.

If we don’t provide opportunities for positive SEEs in a child’s life following a trauma, they will seek them out on their own.  Unfortunately, these are the times that they find “false-positive” experiences: drugs, alcohol, promiscuous activity, dangerous risk-seeking behaviors. If they are not presented with numerous and diverse options for their own healing and growth, along with continual praise for taking safe risks, they will find their own avenues of growth and risk, and these will likely be avenues that we do not want to see our children go down. 

If a child in your life is struggling, you must make the commitment to help them find the positive and real SEEs that will help them to heal.  It is beyond scary to think that your entire life is broken because of one event or series of events. 

Help a child to see that good things are still coming, they are still valuable individuals, and there is love and support waiting for them whenever and where ever they need it. The negative SEE of trauma has made them feel like a victim. Growth through positive SEE’s can help them to feel validated and valuable again. Help them to find this growth, and encourage them to seek it out for themselves. You’ll be amazed to find what a positive SEE it becomes in your own life.


  1. Conni St.John said on March 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm ... #

    incredible insight, what a creative and positive way to help us all help a grieving, hurting child. This is so very powerful yet such a simple strategy for every one who cares about that child to use. Thank you so much for sharing this information, this should be a regular feature.

  2. Melissa Perrine said on March 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm ... #

    This is such a powerful article, so full of information, and so well written. I have read it twice, and I only wish that someone like you had been around when I lost my grandfather. Everything that you said is right, though I have found some amazing positive “SEEs” in my life, they have been a long time coming. It should have been easier, and my goal in my new career, is to make sure that others do not have the same long, isolated process that I have endured.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, it will one that I will print and share, and read many times over.


  3. Trevor said on November 13, 2012 at 7:27 am ... #

    Yes i agree with the writer to a certain degree that grief is not limited to some set time period immediately after the death of the loved one.
    Some people carry the burden of their grief all through their lives, especially those who have lost children…
    Hence, we should never be impatient and think that others ought to be over their loss by now.
    A medical authority admits: “Depression and emotional swings may last as long as several years.”
    Remember, therefore, that just as physical scars on the body may stay with us for life, so do many emotional scars….
    Do not underestimate the value of your prayers with and for bereaved fellow Christians. The Bible says at James 5:16: “A righteous man’s supplication . . . has much force.”
    For example, when the grieving hear us pray in their behalf, it helps them resolve a negative feeling such as guilt. In our moments of weakness, of demoralization, Satan tries to undermine us with his “machinations,” or “crafty acts.”
    This is when we need the comfort and support of prayer, as Paul stated: ‘With every form of prayer and supplication carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones.’—Ephesians 6:11, 18

  4. Nicole said on February 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm ... #

    Good article thank you. We tragically lost our 2yr old son and 7yr old nephew last June on a camping trip and our 6yr old son was there at the time. I feel he is starting to have “issues” dealing with maybe his emotions and how to express them. He talks about the boys, but when he feels the converstation is over..its over no going further. I dont want to force him to discuss the night it happened, we aren’t fully sure of what he actually remembers. He was asleep at the time, but woke to being trapped in a tent and me ripping him out and putting him in the car. so its very hard and I’m at a lose at times as to what to do. I have great guilt myself and trying to cope and go thru life w/o my precious baby. I try to keep an even balance for my 6yr old..but its a hard balance to know when to pull the reigns in and when to let them go a bit.

  5. Lenny said on February 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm ... #

    I found this article very supportive for people who care for children who have lost someone important. I might only add that it is often very helpful to read a book with a child, one appropriate to his/her situation though not necessarily the same, as a means of starting a conversation and bonding with the child. As for times when the child seems to be up against a wall in discussing his/her grief, I’ve found that children do not want to stay in a state of sadness, that their impulse to thrive moves them often to hope.

  6. Izzy said on May 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm ... #

    Pete , thanks for everything
    p.s love the pic!

  7. elizabeth valandra said on February 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm ... #

    my 5 year old great grandson and his mother,my granddaughter have lived with me since she wes a child. the father has had intermittent contact with the child in the last 5 years…well my granddaughter died 12/21/13 at 25 years old..aweek after her death his father came and took him ….he now lives with him, a live in girlfriend,and their brand new baby…..he also lives the majority of the week with his paternal grandparents of whom he barely knows….i have seen him 4times since 12/28/03 what damage can this cause ?please advise as to what I can share with these people to let them know how traumatic all this is.0n him….any help will be greatly appreciated …your articles were so good and i thought you could advise me …thank you

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