“Why don’t I feel that overwhelming loving feeling toward her? Is there something wrong with me?”
These are the thoughts that raced through my mind as I was sobbing at 2 a.m., trying to rock my 4-week-old baby girl back to sleep.
I’ve always wanted to be a mom. As a kid, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered, “a mom.” In friend groups, I’ve always been the “mom” to everyone. When I thought about motherhood, I felt totally confident and prepared to become a mother.
But the day she was born, all those things I thought would come naturally never came. And even now, 3 months into it, I’m still struggling with those late-night thoughts.
Let me clarify something before you get any further — I’m not here to give you any advice. I can’t share a list of steps to help you out of these feelings because I’m still in it myself. And I don’t have it figured out (not even close), but I can offer you this: You’re not alone. I see you.
And I see you questioning yourself and your baby, wondering if you’ll make it through this in one piece, struggling to understand how different motherhood is than how you thought it would be. And I’ve realized, for me at least, that these feelings aren’t just rooted in sadness or sleep deprivation, but grief.
Grieving What Used to Be and Accepting the New
After my husband, my daughter, and I survived those first 3 weeks of postpartum and the fog *somewhat* lifted, I had this unshakeable feeling that the Caroline I had known 3 weeks earlier was gone. The super type-A, confident, reliable person I had been was just upheaved, and a new life — a new person — had just begun. And while I was told to enjoy it, to celebrate having “mother” as my number one descriptor, and to lean into this person I was becoming, I couldn’t do it. I liked the person I used to be and the life I had before motherhood. I didn’t want anything to change. But it had to.
I’ve grieved things as they used to be. I can no longer be on-call for everyone’s every need. I can’t go out with friends at the drop of a hat. No more snuggling on the couch every night with my husband and our dog. Heck, even the clothes I wore no longer fit, and they probably never will. Now, everything revolves around a feeding and sleeping schedule. I have to look for childcare, turn down calls and visits, and set firm boundaries with friends and family.
Maybe you’ve changed careers, or maybe you’ve given up your job to stay home with your baby. And maybe you’ve felt ostracized by family and friends because of this transition into motherhood. Regardless of what your life as a mom looks like, we all have to mourn the life we had before our little ones came into our lives. For good and not so good, things will never be the same.
Grieving Who I Thought I Would Be
There is this second aspect of grief that has taken me nearly 3 months to understand. It’s this feeling that I’m not the kind of mom I always thought I would be. My whole life, I envisioned this fun, adventurous mom dancing in the kitchen with her kids. But when my daughter was born and struggled to eat and refused to sleep, I thought I would lose my mind. That vision of the energetic mom quickly disappeared, and what felt like a shell of a person took her place.
For over two months, there was rarely a day without a breakdown from me, my husband, and our baby. It has been hard to bond with and love on my daughter and nearly impossible to feel close to my husband. At times I’ve felt like I just can’t do it anymore.
*I want to take a second here to say something that needs to be said. Since the very beginning, I’ve been in conversations with my doctor to monitor Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety symptoms. Since 1 in 7 women experience PPD, I was very aware that this was a possibility for me. It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms or have any concerns. For more resources on Postpartum Mental Health, check out: Postpartum Support International. You can also call the PSI Helpline at 1-800-944-4773 (#1 En Español or #2 English) or TEXT: 503-894-9453 (English) or 971-420-0294 (Español).*
I’ve felt stuck in a never-ending cycle of trying to force myself into who I am “supposed to be,” then breaking down when that pressure is too much for me to handle. After the first 10 weeks of this, I gave up. I stopped trying to force that image on myself and started trying to accept the mother I am right now. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn and grow as my baby girl learns and grows — that will always be my goal.
But I want you to hear this: It’s ok to rest in who you are right now. Take the pressure off yourself to be the mom you feel like you’re supposed to be. Ignore the people who tell you to enjoy every moment, because not every moment is enjoyable. If no one else has, I want to tell you that it’s ok to need a break, to ask for help before you get desperate, and to be honest when people ask, “Don’t you just love being a mom??”
I know it gets better. But until it does, I don’t want to pretend that I’m loving this stage. People give new moms an unrealistic expectation to immediately bond with their baby, to be joyful about the many challenges of motherhood, and to appreciate all the fleeting stages their child will go through.
But what happens when none of that feels possible? Most new moms are left to wonder if there’s something wrong with them. But I firmly believe that these feelings of grief are ok to process through. I’m content with where I am right now. But I’m also looking forward to growing into the mother I know I can be. And I’m ready to take this journey one baby step at a time.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-4-01.png5001200Caroline Henryhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngCaroline Henry2021-07-28 15:22:242021-07-29 09:36:08When Motherhood Isn’t What You Thought It Would Be
Grief is a response to loss. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, numbness, anger, and guilt. The goal of successful grief resolution is to reestablish emotional balance. Not everyone grieves the same things or expresses their grief in the same way. And then there’s what we call “disenfranchised grief.” (You probably know what it is, and you may have even felt it, but you might not know what to call it.)
Recognizing that loss comes in many forms has been one positive thing we’ve taken away from the pandemic. For example, loss of:
A prom or graduation
A dream wedding
People are more aware of “disenfranchised grief” now. Still, it’s helpful for us to think beyond the pandemic to other commonly overlooked losses. That way, we can support those suffering from them.
Understanding Disenfranchised Grief:
Grief that isn’t typically recognized by societal norms and/or lacks cultural expression.
Grief that is often minimized, invalidated, stigmatized, marginalized, or misunderstood.
★ Disenfranchised grief (DG) leaves individuals to process their loss on their own or in secret. They lack the supportive benefits available to people whose losses are more socially accepted, expected, acknowledged, or understood. Often, people tell those in distress, “You didn’t even know them that well,” or “Move on,” or “Get over it.”
Even if we don’t understand it or agree with it, it doesn’t make the pain any less. The pain is REAL.
Examples of losses that are frequently disenfranchised include:
death of an “ex,” an absent sibling or parent
loss of someone who was not a “blood relative”
loss of a co-worker or pet
an adoption that fell through
loss of possessions, loss of location due to a relocation or move
loss of mobility or health, loss of a body part
infertility, miscarriage, stillborn child
incarceration of a friend or family member
deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, suicide*, or overdose
loss of personality due to dementia, etc.
Frequently, the loss itself may not be disenfranchised, but the manner in which an individual grieves may be.
Those around them may criticize the length of their grieving process or the form their grief takes. Societies and cultures can have “unwritten rules” when it comes to grief. People often question, criticize, or invalidate expressions outside those “rules.” These things can complicate the grieving process.
For many circumstances that individuals experience, there is no “race for the cure,” support group, lapel ribbon, hotline, celebrity fundraiser, foundation, or “public awareness” campaign. There may not even be a Hallmark card for it. This doesn’t mean that feelings of grief are invalid or illegitimate.
Often, people don’t even know they are experiencing DG, let alone know how to work through it.
Instead, people have a tendency to minimize or invalidate their loss by comparing it to what a person (or society) believes is a “legitimate” loss.
Disenfranchised Grief. They say if you can name it, you can tame it. It might begin by being honest with yourself, admitting you’re grieving, and not feeling guilty about it.
Stop faking smiles. Then find some support. The people around you are probably more than willing to help you. They just might not recognize your “outside the box” loss.
For those of us who may know someone experiencing DG, support might begin by expanding our definitions of “loss” and “grief.” We can follow up by making ourselves available to those who are hurting and grieving. We can listen and empathetically validate their sense of loss.
About 2.5 million people die in the United States each year. They all leave an average of five grieving people behind. Not all those grieving people grieve the same.
If we can expand our perspective on grief, we can expand our support to those who are grieving.People are hurting, and we can help.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Grief-01.png10422500John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2021-06-10 13:11:002022-07-25 13:54:45What You Need to Know About Disenfranchised Grief
Adults in the child's life are essential to help them grieve in a healthy way.
Death is often a difficult topic to discuss. It’s even more challenging to consider how you can help a child through the death of a parent. No matter what age, the death of a parent shifts your foundation. Therefore, it’s even more critical to find ways to support and help a child grieving the death of a parent.
Parents provide safety and security for their children. After a parent dies, the child’s needs may vary according to their age, maturity, and personality. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to grief. These children have unique needs that should be met.
Here are 6 things you can do to help a child who is grieving the death of a parent:
1. Be aware of your own grief and emotions.
It’s not easy to help a child through grief if you don’t acknowledge and work through your own. Grief is the process through which you deal with a loss. In this case, a friend or loved one died and left a child or children behind. Recognizing this allows you to process your grief so you don’t unintentionally make this loss only about you.
2. Be careful how you communicate with the child.
Because people tend to be uncomfortable talking about death, they often use well-intentioned phrases that do more harm than good. Sayings like:
“They are in a better place.”
“They just went to sleep.”
“One day, you will get over this.”
While you may mean well, think carefully about saying something just to say something. You may even need to listen more than you talk.
3. Be prepared for the child to express a variety of behaviors.
Children can display so many emotions after their parent dies, including fear, sadness, or anger. They may experience separation anxiety when away from the surviving parent or caregivers. Additionally, they may experience the following regressive behaviors, including using baby talk, bedwetting, or waking in the middle of the night. Stomachaches may become common complaints. Eating habits may change also. It’s essential to be aware of the frequency and intensity of any behavioral changes.
4. Be age-appropriately honest with them.
Children often have questions after the death of a parent. How did it happen? Is it gonna happen to you? Is it gonna happen to them? First, talk with their surviving parent to find out what they shared with the child. That can prepare you to answer questions within the framework they’ve established. Honesty is vital. Your honest answers help rebuild trust and security. In your desire to help, consistency and reliability are essential, too. You want to under-promise and over-deliver rather than over-promise and underdeliver. Do everything you can to follow through with what you say you will do.
5. Be award that grief is an ongoing process.
Many people come around in the immediate aftermath. However, the kids will need you for the long haul. The hard truth is that a child never gets over the death of a parent or stops grieving their loss, though the experience of grief may morph over time. Kids may seem to bounce back from the loss. As a result, we want to believe that children are resilient and won’t be affected long-term. As comforting as this might sound, unfortunately, it’s not true. The intensity may lessen over time, but the parent they lost won’t be there for life milestones (i.e., Birthdays, Holidays, Proms, Graduations, Weddings).
6. Be proactive in helping the child find ways to remember their parent.
Some people think that remembering a parent who died causes children pain. Attempting to minimize the pain, people often decide to remove photos or rarely mention or discuss the parent. On the contrary, remembering helps with the grieving process. Memories give a child a picture of who their parent was, what they liked, and how they lived.
Losing a parent can be one of the most challenging things a child (or even an adult) can experience. The adults in the child’s life are essential to help them grieve in a healthy way. As you journey with them, be a listening ear, a safe place to land, and a consistent presence in their lives.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/jordan-whitt-KQCXf_zvdaU-unsplash-1-scaled-e1619560857668.jpg495899Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-04-27 18:01:102021-05-11 10:49:376 Things You Can Do to Help a Child Who Is Grieving the Death of a Parent
At its most ideal, the grieving process leads to growth.
Nobody likes grief. Or, at least I haven’t met anyone yet who does. Maybe it’s because we know grief is the process someone goes through to work through any kind of loss. And no one likes to lose things or people they love.
Unfortunately, every one of us will go through it. And if you already have, chances are you will again. I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s just that life is full of losses, whether it’s a job, the end of a relationship, a kid leaving for college, or the death of someone you love. But, there is hope.
Fact is, grief is necessary. It’s what allows us to walk through all the emotions that come with a loss and continue to be healthy individuals. It’s painful, uncomfortable, sometimes dreadful. But in the long run, it does what it’s supposed to do: It helps you work through the loss.
Here are some things you need to know about grief to understand this process better.
1. Grief runs a course, but it’s not the same for everyone.
No one grieves in the same way. There are no predictable steps or stages. In general, the shock and emotions that come with grief should move from more intense and frequent to less over time. But the pace can vary from person to person.
2. When a loss first happens, presence is the best support.
You may know what it’s like to feel the shock of a significant loss. You often can’t think straight. Things people say go in one ear and out the other. I can’t remember a single thing anyone said to me at my dad’s funeral; I put on a happy face, but my brain was a fog. However, I do remember who was there at my side. Presence is a strong source of support.
3. Some people have a more complicated reaction to a loss.
The researchers call it complicated grief. It’s when strong grief responses – those intense emotions, the effects of shock – persist over a long time without letting up. More problematic issues can arise from this, like depression or a deep sense of loneliness. Lots of factors play into why this happens. A professional therapist or a grief support group can help a great deal with complicated grief.
4. Emotional health before a loss can determine the grief process.
Research gives a strong indication that the more emotionally healthy you are, the less likely you are to experience complicated grief. Those prone to high anxiety, depression, loneliness, or unresolved relational issues often have a more challenging time with a loss. Staying emotionally healthy and being intentional with self-care is an excellent preventative measure for when loss hits.
5. Grief may not go away.
What I mean is, years down the road, something may spark a memory of who or what you lost, causing an emotional response. This is normal and healthy. Don’t judge it or yourself negatively. It’s simply part of the process.
6. Grief changes a person, and that can be a good thing.
Going through grief usually causes you to consider your perspectives on life and death, your values, and what you put meaning behind. It clarifies what’s important and prompts different behavior on the other side of the loss. At its most ideal, grief leads to growth.
You may be working through grief at the moment or know someone who is. It’s been helpful for me to remember that there is hope in grief. You can recover from a loss. The shock and pain aren’t forever. And even though things may never go back to “normal,” life will function again as you grow from your grief.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/cristian-newman-Zi8-E3qJ_RM-unsplash-scaled-e1619560610957.jpg256600Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-04-27 17:56:592021-07-07 12:39:226 Things You Need to Know About Grief
There are many common challenges and misunderstandings.
“In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parents who lose a child.” ~ Jodi Picoult
Children bury their parents up on a hill. It’s the sad, natural cycle of life. But parents bury their kids deep in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Then, some people are forced to bury their dream of having children… in the murky depths of what might have been.
For Those Dealing With Infertility, Miscarriage, or the Death of a Child
There’s probably been no shortage of people telling you to get the help and support you need. Or maybe there has. People often don’t know what to say, when, or how to say it. Or perhaps they’re afraid to say the “wrong” thing. So, they say nothing. The deafening silence around the loss of a child or the ability to have children can make you feel ashamed, or marginalized, or lost in the solitude of your own grief.
Some well-meaning people say, well, dumb or insensitive things. Unfortunately, the hurting and grieving individuals often feel like they have to be understanding, gracious, and compassionate toward someone who makes callous remarks.
Some statistics have reached urban legend status concerning divorce rates for parents who’ve lost a child. I’ve heard 80% or even 90%. Don’t let these numbers scare you. The actual number is around 16%, including couples experiencing marital difficulties before losing a child. [The divorce rate is actually higher (30%) among parents having their first child.]
This is not to say that fertility issues, miscarriages, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS), or Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDS) don’t create unique marital challenges and difficulties.
One challenge is the reality that people grieve differently. Some cry, some get angry. Some people need to process their feelings out loud. Others need to process their emotions internally. The important thing is for spouses not to judge each other’s grieving process or draw conclusions about who cares more. Men and women often process loss and grief differently, especially after a miscarriage.
In Helping Men with the Trauma of Miscarriage, published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Mark Kiselica and Martha Rinehart, Ph.D., looked at case studies of men whose partners had lost a baby. They found that the fathers’ sadness and grief were dismissed by others.
Additionally, men also grapple with the physical loss of their wives after a miscarriage.
“What I know from my own data, and working with support groups in counseling, is that miscarriage does a number on your sex life,” says Swanson. “For men, it was, ‘When can I go back to her? I miss her.’ For women, it was, ‘If I never have sex again, I’ll die a happy woman.’”
Similarly, many people mistakenly believe that an early-stage miscarriage is less complicated emotionally than one that happens later. Research indicates that this isn’t the case. A woman can start bonding with her baby as soon as she tests positive on a pregnancy test.
Many other misunderstandings surround grief, infertility and miscarriages.
People often have a dismissive attitude toward those trying to conceive. Some assume that medical advances and adoption provide a “fix” for couples facing infertility. However, medical procedures only go so far and are too expensive for many. Same for adoption. Plus, psychological hurdles like guilt, blame, and the desire to have a biological child are challenging issues to navigate. Sterility or infertility can leave an individual feeling “broken” and burdensome to their spouse.
One thing to be careful of when dealing with infertility or the death of a child is Partner-Oriented Self-Regulation (POSR). POSR is where one spouse tries to stay strong for the other. They may bottle up their emotions, avoid bringing up the loss, and act as though nothing has happened. A spouse who “regulates” themself in this manner mistakenly believes they are helping their partner. In reality, they may be sending a message to their partner that they are unmoved and calloused. Plus, they could unknowingly be invalidating their spouse’s feelings and hampering the grief and healing process for both of them.
Whether a couple is wrestling with fertility or losing a child, communication, counseling, and cultivating a support system are crucial. Remain a team in your marriage and utilize the resources available to you.
Your loved one needs you, whether they admit it or not.
At the age of 16, I lost my grandmother. She wasn’t the first loved one I had lost, but it affected me differently. My Memaw was my hero; I witnessed her long battle with diabetes and cancer. The grief was complicated. When my wife was 29, she lost her grandmother. They were extremely close growing up, but at the age of 12, my wife moved to this country and only saw her grandmother once over the next 17 years. Her grieving looked much different than mine. She is still grieving the loss.
When your friend or family member loses a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, or another person close to them, their responses may look different, and that’s ok. We all grieve for various lengths of time, sometimes with extreme emotions. Though the process varies from person to person, you can be a source of support and strength as you meet others where they are in their grief.
Here are four ways you can help a friend or loved one who is grieving:
1. Be present.
Be there, and be attentive to their needs. Remember, their grief may look different than yours. Maybe they want to talk about the loved one they just lost. Perhaps they just want to grab a drink and talk about anything else. Maybe they just need you to sit with them as they process. No matter what this looks like for them, be there.
2. Be helpful.
When grieving, it’s often tough to respond when someone says, “Do you need anything?” Many of us say it with the best intentions, though. But the grieving person isn’t thinking about what they need. Look for opportunities to serve them. Cut their grass. Bring them food. Pick up their groceries. Pay close attention to their needs, and don’t hesitate to meet whatever needs you can. If you’re not sure what they need, ask those closest to them.
3. Be there for the long haul.
Grief doesn’t have a timetable. Some people grieve for a short period; others grieve for years. Again, there is no correct timetable. Be there for your loved one for the duration of their grieving.
If you live close, drop by and check on them periodically. Take them out to coffee or ice cream. If you live further away, mail them cards, call, or video chat. Be intentional about being there for them. They need you to stay engaged throughout their grief.
It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed or lonely. As you remain present and engaged with them, be on the lookout for any signs of depression. Grief may come and go depending on the people present or situation. Depression tends to be more persistent. Be aware of warning signs of depression.
Here are a few warning signs to look for:
Their depression is not centered on the loss.
Difficulty performing daily tasks.
Excessive anger or guilt.
Withdrawing from others.
Alcohol or substance abuse.
Talking about suicide*.
If your loved one is experiencing signs of depression, help them get help from a counselor or the Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255).
Grief is an uncomfortable process, but it’s necessary. Your loved one needs you, whether they admit it or not. Walk with them through their grief no matter how long the process. Be there for them and love them as best you can.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pexels-alex-green-5700205-scaled-e1619554317662.jpg391900Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-04-27 16:12:092022-07-25 13:56:024 Ways You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Loved One
Try these tips for wading into the discomfort in order to comfort.
Supporting a friend who’s grieving the death of a loved one is often awkward. When they are mourning the passing of their spouse, it’s especially tough. What do you say? What can you do? How do you provide support without being intrusive, offensive, or just saying the wrong things? While there is no pain like losing one’s husband or wife, knowing some things about the grieving process can inform you how you can help someone grieving the death of a spouse.
Remember what grief is.
Grief is usually associated with pain, and nobody wants to see their friend hurting. So we typically respond (often subconsciously) with the hope of taking away the pain. I think that’s why many people try to say comforting things that turn out to be awkward. They’re trying to alleviate the pain that simply cannot be alleviated at that time. It’s the necessary process of working through a loss. A person who experiences loss has to grieve because that’s how you work through the loss. Remember that every person grieves at their own pace, in their own time, in different waves and intensities of emotions. Supporting someone who’s grieving the death of their spouse means walking with them in their grief at their pace.
Sometimes your silent presence is the only support your friend needs at the time, especially at the beginning of the loss.
Often, grieving family members are in a state of shock the first couple of weeks (and sometimes longer). When my dad passed away, I honestly can’t remember anything that was said to me at the funeral. But I do remember who was there by my side, and it still means the world to me today. Presence often speaks volumes.
In the following weeks and months, be proactive to reach out.
After a week or so, people distant from the loss have moved on, unaware that the grieving spouse is far from it. This is when they may find themselves most alone, ironically, when they are more open (and less in shock) to talk with others. Continue to check in with your friend regularly. Set a reminder on your phone. This could be a good time to ask how they are holding up, how they’ve been feeling, and what you can do to help (questions that typically don’t make much sense in the first few days of the loss).
Understand a person who loses their spouse will always be in some state of grief. It doesn’t mean they’ll always feel pain.
But they’ll be processing life without this person for as long as they live. Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries will always prompt memories. A song, a scene on TV, or a particular meal will cause emotions to well up, even years down the road. As a friend, be conscious of this. Don’t be afraid to ask about what these things meant to them and their spouse. Allow them to share as much as they’d like. Processing loss is often done through these kinds of situations, memories, or objects.
Finally, remember: grief is uncomfortable. The process is rarely easy. And it’s going to be uncomfortable for you, the friend who wants to help. Supporting your friend means wading into the discomfort and the pain with them, sometimes in silence and sometimes with encouragement, knowing that the process is healthy and intensity won’t last. That is being truly helpful, and I commend you for your loyalty to your grieving friend who is dealing with the death of their spouse.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pexels-liza-summer-6382474-scaled-e1618937092364.jpg408900Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-04-20 12:45:172021-07-07 14:06:06How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Spouse
There’s nothing easy about seeing your child experience grief. It’s hard enough for adults to process losing someone we love. So we often wonder how their little minds are handling something so hard to understand. How can you help our child out?
First, you need to know a few things about grief and children.
Grief is usually brought on by losing something valuable, a source of support, security, or endearment. Kids can grieve over all kinds of losses, from the death of a family member to a pet that runs away, a friend who moves, a missing stuffed animal, or parents separating. If it’s a significant loss for them, it’s a big cause of grief.
We usually associate grief with pain. If that’s all it was, it’d be a terrible thing we’d want to avoid.
But these feelings are only a part of grief. As a whole, grief is the process of working through the loss. Some call this moving toward “acceptance” or “back to normal.” However, healthy grief moves us beyond acceptance, and things never quite go back to normal. Grief done well causes us to be different than before the loss, perhaps more resilient or having a greater perspective on life.
Healthy grief helps us grow. We need to keep this in mind when helping our children through grief.
Here’s another thing to know: the grief process isn’t predictable with kids. There are no steps. Every child (and person, for that matter) grieves at their own pace, in their own time, in different waves and intensities of emotions. This makes it challenging for parents like you and me, who’d love to know what we can expect. You need to walk with your child through the process of grief at their pace.
Understand that it’s not our job to take the grief away. That’s tough, I know. We often feel what our kids are feeling. We see the pain, the hurt, the tears, the confusion — and we don’t want our child to experience that. But it is part of the process.
So how can we help our children process grief?
Let your child open up and talk about what they’re feeling or thinking. Kids often don’t have the vocabulary to describe their deep feelings, so you may have to help your child find the words. If you can help them name their feelings, they can start to process what they feel. Another way to do this is to ask them how their feelings feel. Stick with me here:
So how are you doing since Grandpa passed away?
I’m feeling sad.
I know what you mean — I feel sad, too. What does sadness feel like to you?
It feels like everybody I know is going to go away. And that makes me scared.
That must be scary. Let’s talk about that some more.
Letting your child know that you are grieving can be reassuring to them. If they know that you also feel hurt, sad, and sometimes cry, it helps them feel normal. They may have intense feelings they’ve never felt before, and that’s hard for them to understand, too.
It’s tempting to try and rationalize the loss with your child.
Grandpa lived a good, long life.
Friends move away sometimes, and we can make other friends.
There’s nothing wrong with this; it can help children begin to understand the reality of loss and death. However, keep in mind that loss or death is rarely rational to anyone who is grieving. If these kinds of ideas don’t comfort your child, don’t be alarmed.
As I said, every child grieves at their own pace. However, your child may struggle with grief for an extended time or have dramatic mood or personality changes. In that case, it might be time to get help from a professional counselor.
All children will experience loss and grief. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s just a part of life. But we can help our kids work through grief in a way that allows them to gain a healthier perspective of life, loss, and themselves. And walking with your child at their pace will help them grow in a healthy way through the process of grief.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/ksenia-makagonova-9y6oH2qHai0-unsplash-scaled-e1617812473794.jpg20481365Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-04-07 12:21:332021-04-13 12:07:26How to Help Your Child Deal With Grief