Parenting is hard enough on its own, but adding grief to the equation can make everyday life feel impossible. Here are some tips to help you facilitate healing and hope for your family after loss or trauma.
When Erica lost her 10-year-old son in a drowning accident, she didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to help her other children grieve the death of their brother; much less get through the day-to-day tasks of simply being their mom.
Parenting is one of life’s biggest yet rewarding challenges on its own. But adding a layer of excruciating grief after losing a loved one—in Erica’s case, her son—adds complexity that few understand. Parenting and experiencing the grief of losing a loved one together? Well, it doesn’t get any harder than that.
With over 40 known losses that can cause grief—that is, deep sorrow or emotional suffering in response to a loss—it doesn’t take something as severe as losing a child to one, experiencing grief; or two, disrupt your lifestyle as a parent.
So whether you have lost a loved one or are undergoing a divorce or breakup, received a devastating diagnosis, lost your job, or are experiencing unbearable financial strain, every parent deserves to be equipped with the tools and resources to cope with grief in a way that still enables them to be the parent their children deserve. Here are some tips to help you navigate parenting while also dealing with the complex feelings of grief.
Tips for Parenting While Grieving from a Grief Recovery Counselor
- Don’t hide your grieving from your children. Society teaches us that we should cry in secret or push the pain aside to power through the workday. But burying your pain only makes life harder. Open up to your children, let them know you are likely going to cry at times, and teach them that this is a normal response to grief. This not only allows you to cope with your pain in a healthy way, but teaches them to follow your lead should their own emotions become too much to handle.
- Try to avoid asking your children how they’re doing. More often than not when you ask them this question, you will be met by the all-too-common response we as adults often use when we don’t know how to or don’t want to talk about something: “I’m fine.” More than likely, your children don’t know how they’re doing. They don’t understand yet that grief is an emotional response to loss.
Instead, share how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing. Erica shared with her other son, “I had a bad day today because I found a box and didn’t know what was in it. So I opened it and it was full of Austin’s favorite toys.” It’s not an easy conversation to have and it may be hard for you as a parent to appear vulnerable in front of your children, but leading the way for processing grief gives them the green light to do the same, which will encourage them to share their feelings as well.
You may share that bad day with them today and they may not have much of a response, but eventually they will start sharing bad days with you because you created that safe space for them. When we avoid filling the awkward silences and give them the space to share on their timeline, they begin to process their pain in a healthy way, too. Conversely, if you’re constantly shutting yourself in the bedroom and hiding your grief from your children, then they will close the door and shut everyone out, too. Monkey see, monkey do.
- You may have to alter your approach to parenting—and that’s ok. Grieving and parenting together are two of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. When tragedy strikes and shakes up the normalcy of your family, your approach to parenting your children may also change. If mornings go from scratch-made, Pinterest-worthy breakfasts to Jimmy Dean frozen sandwiches, that’s ok. Be patient with yourself and pat yourself on the back for showing up and powering through anyway.
- Grief is unique and individual. You may have lost a parent, but your kids lost a grandparent. You may have lost a child, but your children lost a sibling. It’s important to remember that grief is different for everyone and to respect how your children are coping with this grief, even if it is different from the way you’re processing your own. The more you can provide a safe place where your kids feel encouraged to show their own emotions and talk about their feelings, the better the outcome will be within the family.
Don’t Suffer in Silence
If you have experienced loss and are trying to juggle your grief with your everyday parenting duties, you are not alone. We see you, we know you’re hurting, and want to offer you a safe place to share your story and feel supported in your healing journey. Contact us today to set up a free discovery call and spend some time with us – we’re here for you.
Sharon Brubaker is a certified Life Coach and credentialed Grief Specialist who, along with her team, teaches women who are grieving how to process their thoughts and emotions. To learn more about navigating grief within the family, listen to the full podcast episode here or download my free e-Book, The Griever’s Guide, which equips you with the tools to live life after grief; because no griever should have to navigate a broken heart on their own.