Parenting through Grief: A Guide for Healing
When a loved one passes away, parents must play two roles: griever of their own loss and supporter of their children’s loss.
It requires awareness and sensitivity during a time that’s filled with emotion. Here are six tips to help you balance the demands of grief and parenting and get on the road to healing.
Don’t try to hide your sorrow.
Very often, parents conceal their sadness from their children. But when it comes to dealing with loss, keeping a stiff upper lip is a bad idea. Your children may interpret this behavior as indifference, coldness, or a lack of love. Instead, they need to know that grieving is perfectly normal and acceptable. Explain that sadness is part of losing a loved one and allow your children to see your heartbreak.
Consider age-appropriate ways to share your grief.
Because of the loss you’ve suffered, your children may see you in emotional pain for the first time in their lives. Keep in mind that children also look to the adults in their lives to model behavior, even in times of grief. It is important to talk to them openly and in an age-appropriate way about your sorrow. Very young children typically do not realize that death is permanent, and they may think that the loved one who passed away will return at some point. They may have a general understanding that death makes us sad and causes separation, but the concept of forever is beyond their comprehension. Older children grasp the permanence but they may still have many questions.
Make room for your bereavement.
The demands of caring for your children are likely to keep you from dwelling on your sorrow. However, you also need to practice proper self-care. When grieving and parenting simultaneously, it is important to create the capacity to experience your own feelings of loss. That may mean ensuring you have a few quiet minutes each day to cry, write in a journal, or talk to your departed loved one. The key is not to pretend that your grief doesn’t exist, but to carve out a space in your life to explore it.
Give thought to the messages you are sending.
When attempting to provide support, be careful to not further confuse your children. Some well-intended messages can actually leave them feeling even more concerned and vulnerable. For example, telling a young child that his deceased family member is in a ‘better place’ can be puzzling. “How can any place be better than being here with us?” he might wonder. It’s also not advisable to refer to the departed as ‘asleep’ or ‘resting’, which can be disruptive to sleep routines and add to feelings of uncertainty.
Respond to your children’s questions.
Although these conversations can be difficult, it’s important to have them. Answering their questions provides a sense of security. When children ask questions about death, it’s usually a sign that they’re curious about something they don’t understand. Let your children know that all questions are okay to ask and do your best to answer them truthfully with sensitivity to their ages. You may not be able to answer every query, and that is perfectly okay. Being available to them is what matters.
Above all, be gentle with yourself.
Recognize that you are doing your best to handle a life-altering experience. If you are showing your kids love and supporting their emotions, you are doing well.
If you have questions or need additional help for yourself or your grieving child, our caring professionals are here for you. Please reach out to us anytime.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.