Advice Column, Child, Parenting

Parenting Through Grief

Facing the death of a loved one can be a monumentally difficult emotional hurdle to overcome. Tragedy and grief have a way of seeping into every aspect of your life. Your favorite tv show can remind you of the loved one who passed away. Your favorite food reminds you of the meals you shared with the recently deceased. A hobby you once enjoyed can be a chilling reminder of the loved one who is no longer with you. The heartache you feel will lessen over time. The old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’ holds truth. Unfortunately, you cannot drop all of your responsibilities and obligations. First and foremost, your responsibility to take care of your child. You are still a parent and must navigate the already complicated journey of parenting while dealing with grief. Even if the grief you are experiencing is debilitating you still must provide for your children. You cannot check out.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be the best parent that you can be while dealing with grief and tragedy. Before diving into different ways that you can manage your grief and heartache, it is important to understand some of the many ways grief can manifest in people.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Upset stomach / Digestive Issues
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Fatigue and Low Energy Levels
  • Skin Complexion Worsens
  • Tightness in Chest
  • Shortness of Breath (induced by anxiety)
  • Headaches
  • Compromised Immune System
  • Rapid Changes in Weight

Mental / Emotional Symptom:

  • Anxiety
  • Social Isolation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anger (Commonly manifest in people with ‘complicated grief’)
  • Guilt
  • Negative Thought Patterns
  • Difficulty Pursuing Hobbies
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Depression

Here are some tips for being the best parent possible while dealing with grief.

Find Solace in Happy Memories

It can be extremely difficult to keep a positive outlook in the wake of a tragedy. The truth is that the line between grieving and depression is blurred. Nobody expects you to be smiling and happy when grieving. This tip isn’t about trying to be happy. This tip is entirely focused on merely remembering good times you had with the deceased person (or beloved pet). It can be extremely easy to overlook the many joys that the decedent (person who has passed away) has brought to your life. Looking back on cherished memories is useful because it shifts your focus in a positive and hopeful direction. This shift in perspective is useful in dealing with grief, which in turn can help you parent better.

Talk with Close Friends and Family

Having a someone lend a supportive ear to you while you are grieving can be super beneficial. While feeling alone in your grief following a tragedy is common, you don’t have to be alone with your grief. Talking with family members who are also dealing with grief can help you feel connected. Even if the people who you open up to with your grief are not currently dealing with grief, chances are they have dealt with tragedy in the past and can sympathize with your pain.

Use this Opportunity to Grow with Your Children

As a parent, it is clear that almost every situation or obstacle in life can turn into an excellent teaching opportunity for a young child. A funeral for a loved one may be a great opportunity to teach your child about the concept of death in a gentle way. This tip is obviously dependent on the age of the child. Children under 5 years old may not be capable of grasping this subject matter. If you think your child is capable of grasping this subject then it can be very beneficial for them to learn about this concept.

Understanding what happens when a person or pet dies is an important life skill for a child to know as they will inevitably face this again throughout their life. Many parents make the mistake of trying to over protect their child and shield them from difficult concepts and harsh realities. By introducing your kids to these difficult ideas, you are actually better preparing them for life, helping them emotionally grow, and equipping them with a proper understanding of how the world works. This article covers helpful ways of talking to your children about death in a simple and easy to understand way.

Seek The Help of a Therapist

If you find yourself barely able to cope with grief and notice it is affecting your ability to be a good parent to your children, it is time to consider talking with a professional therapist. Therapy has been proven in countless studies to help people understand and overcome difficulties they face in life. Whether those difficulties are severe grief, social anxiety, depression, phobias, bipolar disorder etc. therapy can help you better understand yourself and how to treat the problem. The negative stigma surrounding therapy and talking to a therapist is decreasing as more and more awareness is brought to how effective therapy can be. There are also many organizations dedicated to helping people work through their grief. Don’t let grief interfere with your parenting and sideline you from life.

To take this one step further, if your child is having a difficult time dealing with grief following the death of a loved one, it might be a good idea to have your child speak with a therapist. Despite what you may think as a parent, some kids may prefer speaking with someone outside of the family regarding their feelings and emotions. Children and adults alike can sometimes feel more willing to open emotionally to someone who is not related to them. The general reason behind this willingness to open up to strangers often stems from the person not feeling as judged when they do open up. Regardless of why this may be the case, it can be very beneficial to offer your child the opportunity to speak with a therapist.

When dealing with grief and tragedy, be kind with yourself. Grief can take time to lessen. This timeline is different for everybody, however, by being honest about your feelings you will be better able to parent effectively during this difficult time in your life.


About The Author

Sarah Giavanio is the customer relationship director at Safe Passage Urns. She is dedicated to helping families find memorial options to remember a loved one. She spends a lot of time working with grieving families, and as a parent herself, Sarah understands firsthand how grief can interfere with parenting.

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