Grief is a bittersweet feeling. It is sadness, depression, anger, and love all wrapped in one.
Three years ago, our family’s life was turned upside down. Within a six month time frame my grandmother and my mother in law passed away. Two matriarchs who were our family’s rocks were now gone and life as we knew it would never be the same.
Hearing the devastating news was difficult but it was even harder to tell my children that they lost their Nana and their grandma.
As an adult, I was able to process what had happened and what I was feeling. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for helping my children cope with these devastating losses. There isn’t a parenting manual, let alone one on how to help your child process life altering heartbreak.
Now that our family is in a better place with our grief, I have decided to share my tips for helping your child through the grief process.
1. Be vulnerable.
Showing emotion isn’t just okay but it is necessary. I thought that I needed to be strong for my children, which you do to an extent. However, showing your child that you are sad or scared helps them understand that what they are feeling is normal and okay. Not only does it show them that emotions are okay, but it also makes children feel safe to talk openly about their emotions. Also, let them know that everyone grieves differently and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
2. Be patient.
Your child may not feel like talking about their emotions right away, which is totally normal. It took my oldest son months to open up. Your children may act out in response to not knowing how to process what they are feeling. Understand that their actions are a result of their grief. Be patient and understanding, it will get better.
3. Talk to them about their loved one often.
Share memories and reminisce about your loved one with your child. Not only does that help them, but it helps you too. Remembering your loved one in a positive light helps your child understand that although they have died, the love for them didn’t.
4. Teach them that they are still with us.
We are a Christian family and our beliefs are what we cling to in times of trouble. Teaching your children to turn towards God in these moments versus being angry towards Him is crucial in building their own relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
Our loved ones give us signs they are still with us, whether it is through coins, feathers, animals, lights, smells… You name it, we have experienced it. Showing your children those signs brings them comfort to know that their loved one is okay and they are still with us. We may not be able to see them or hear them but they are always with us.
Grief is never ending. When you lose someone, life is then divided into before they died and after they died. Learning to live without your loved one is the hardest part of losing them. But it does get easier.
Although life gets easier, it doesn’t mean it is okay but it means that we are okay with what we feel and how we have grieved. Just remember that all the emotions you and/or your child is feeling is because of the love you had for the person who died. Grief is the greatest sign of love.