**I sobbed writing this because it brings up such pain but I want this out there for anyone that may benefit from it.**
Please don’t read this thinking I’m an expert on grief. There’s a plethora of specialists who’ve written great resources on this topic but personally, I do better hearing from a friend who’s walked the journey before me. With that in mind, I wanted to write some tips on coping skills I’ve used to grieve while caring for children. It can be a tricky road to navigate but I believe it can be done well both for you and for them.
When I lost my Momma, our children were 10, 9, and 3. I remember the exact moment I sat them down in the living room floor to tell them their MawMaw was with Jesus that cold Saturday afternoon. I remember making a commitment to the Lord at that very moment that I would not hide my grief from them and asked Him to help guide me so that I can guide them through this journey. I also promised to not verbal-vomit to them or Adam because none of them were meant to carry those burdens. It’s a fine line but I trusted Jesus could help me. And He has!!
As parents, our first concern during tragedy especially is our children’s needs. Are they okay? Do they understand what’s happening? Will they remember her? Will they be permanently scarred? Will they need therapy? Do I need therapy? Will I succumb to unhealthy coping and hurt them unintentionally? How much of the service should they be a part of? How much do we tell them? My word, y’all it’s a LOT for a parent to bear.
I want to give the best tips I can so this will be done in 2 parts.
In the beginning we decided to let the children guide us. This is how it looked for our family the weekend of her service:
- We asked them if they’d like to be in the processional to which they begged not to.
- We asked them if they wanted to be in the actual service. They said no.
- They also DID NOT want to be in the room with the casket whether open or closed. So we had sweet family/friends rotate and keep an eye on them/play with them/charge the iPads to help keep them distracted. About every 30 minutes I’d walk over to them, let them see me cry, hug them and make sure they were okay. We didn’t want to shield them from all of it. We wanted to give them the chance to grieve.
- Before they closed the casket the last time (that really breaks me to write that out….it hurts doesn’t it?), I asked them one more time privately if they’d like to see her and say goodbye. They adamantly said “no way.” I didn’t push them. Adam agreed.
- It snowed hard the day she was buried so we let the children stay in the car with their God-parents. They just didn’t want to be anywhere near the casket (who could blame them).
Moving on from that weekend, let’s talk about the upcoming months. I was in such a state of shock, pain, trauma, loss, anger, etc that it was very difficult to see through the fog. This was a great time to lean on Adam. Let me explain. It’s not what you think. He is just a man, y’all. A wonderful, Godly man but just human. He was never designed to carry my “stuff.” BUT he is my helper so I let him cook for them and bathe the little so I could be alone and sob or sleep. I had trouble putting 2 words together for MONTHS. There’s no way I could navigate homework or book reports. Adam took over the tasks I just couldn’t handle. He did that to allow me to care for me. There were days I couldn’t even shower because the pain was too great. If you don’t have a spouse, turn to your community for help. JUST ASK! There are people who love you who want to help you through this rough time.
I’ll do a future post on surviving the holidays but for now, lean on your support system and recognize your limits. If you can’t cook that night, get pizza or order in. And listen! Write the teachers a note. Tell them what’s happening so they can help your children, too. Let’s please not keep the loss of a loved one a secret. We are created to live in a community so let other adults in so they can help where they are gifted.
Let’s not make the mistake of muscling through for the sake of our kids. They’ll know, y’all. And I believe in some way, they’ll somehow blame themselves for stressing us out or feeling like they’re a burden. Don’t hide your feelings from your children. It is okay to cry in front of them and show that grownups hurt, too. They need to see a healthy way of missing their loved-one. It’ll help them learn to grieve in healthy ways later in their adult years. Call your pastor and ask him about available resources for you or the children. They have training in this area and can be a great resource! I have much more I want to share on this topic but for now, know you are being prayed for and people want to love you through this very hard season.
Please feel free to ask me anything! I’m an open book on this subject because I believe Jesus doesn’t waste our pain. We are meant to walk along side one another in this.