Parenting through grief
Grieving is hard enough. Parenting while grieving can feel insurmountable.
One of the hardest things that grieving parents have to do is assist their child through their grief process while also taking care of themselves.
So, one of the things that we often recommend to parents is really paying close attention to their own self-care, their own, their own s- the support that they need in order to get through that process. It’s almost like when you’re on an airplane, and they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first. That’s really what parents need to do, because we know that the more support that parents have, and the better they feel, and the more they're able to cope with the loss, the better their child will do, over time.
Here is what grieving parents shared about what it is like for them to parent through grief.
Parenting through grief is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure. One of the hardest things in the world. That summer, it happened- the fire happened in July, so that summer, I tried to keep him the most busy. I didn’t want him to be like me. I- he would go to camp, 9:00 AM. From 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, I sat in a parked- like this, by myself, with my thoughts, with Kleenex. Some days I ate, most days I didn't. But I just sat there, because I was just a being. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, because I didn't want them to see me like this. I have always been the type to not want to put a ripple into someone’s day. If you’re happy, be happy. Don’t be sad because you see me sad. Because nothing that you can do can make me not sad, because once you leave, I’m back to being sad, so it just made it easier in the beginning to just be by myself.
It was difficult with the kids because they wouldn’t understand why mommy was upset and sometimes they would say, “Did we do something to upset mommy?” Or, “Did you do something that upset mommy?” Sometimes I did do something that upset mommy, but I think the key was to try to explain to them in terms that they understood.
It’s hard to explain death and dying to children. I think some analogies are, “Oh, he’s in heaven. He’s up in the sky,” and that’s not something that is real productive to them because now they start thinking, “Oh, I’m going to get in a spaceship and go up and rescue them from there.” So I think just being honest with them, but also in a way that is matter of fact, just acknowledging our human nature saying, “Hey, everybody dies sometime. It’s going to happen.” They’d get upset and say, “Oh, I don’t want you to die any time soon,” but say, “Well, I’m not going to try to. Sometimes accidents happen.”
I think just talking with your children is really important. I also think that not trying to hide it from them so much because kids are super perceptive. They know when something’s up and grief will make you a very bad liar. It’s not easy to hide the fact that something’s wrong, especially when it’s so profoundly severe as losing a sibling, losing a brother-in-law.
We talk about it. I tell her, “Juliana, I wanna teach you all this stuff that I know because one day, I’m not gonna be here with you. I tell God, ’Please, don’t take me now. My daughter needs me.’ When my daughter doesn’t need me, that, she is a grown up and she can survive, uh, by herself, I’m free to go, even though I don’t wanna go.”
I mean I knew, I still had to be there for him, I’m his mother. And, um, you know, that just... All... I just feel like that motherly bond that we have, ’cause we’re so close that just, you know, took over and I was able to... I feel like his life, you know, went on how it should. Everything was like pretty normal, I guess normal that’s the word to use for him.
Um, um, I think I definitely you know, obviously did have days where you know, maybe I didn’t want to get out of bed, but, having him there, knowing I needed to take care of him, made me get out of bed. And sometimes like, you know, when I’m having a hard day that still is what gets me up and gets me going, and pushes me through the day. So I feel like I owe a lot to Mason, that he might not understand now or he doesn’t even know, but I know that he will when he’s older. So, I'm so grateful that I had him.