A few weeks ago I sat with a dear friend talking in a McDonalds about her choice to homeschool. As our conversation moved to other things, we started talking about a very difficult loss she was dealing with. She shared her desire to hide her grief from her children. She didn’t want them to see her hurting. She was afraid that seeing her grieve would be too much for them to handle. I gave her the same advice I am going to give you now, “Let your children see you grieve.”
Let your children see you grieve.
My sweet friend was so overwhelmed. She was so burdened by her grief and by hiding it from her children as much as possible. This hurt her more than anything because she couldn’t move through the process of her grief. When we make the choice to homeschool, we make the choice to have our children do life with us. This means they see our best days and our worst days. Our children will learn as much from how we handle our hardest days as they will from school work, if not more.
I used to have a very different view of grief. I have never really hidden my grief from my children but I would protect them from a lot. That is until my husband’s grandfather passed away. When Dada died it changed everything. We spent a week in Miami saying goodbye to Dada before his time came. When Dada passed away, I was focused on funeral arrangements, paperwork, phone calls, and helping take care of my husband’s grandmother because the rest of the family couldn’t handle her dementia while working through grief. Because I was so busy, I missed something very important that was happening.
Both of my children were grieving. They were both hurting so bad. When we left Miami and came home we went through some very difficult days. My daughter would not cry. She would not show she was upset. She just said she was ok while her behavior showed she was anything but ok. She was angry and she was bitter but she never cried. One day I finally asked her why she wouldn’t cry. Her response shocked me. “No one else is crying. They are all dealing with it so I have to.”
In the middle of everything, we kept the kids away from our grief. We didn’t let them see us fall apart. We didn’t let them see us cry. We didn’t let them know that we were crushed. We tried to keep things as comfortable for them as possible. While we meant well, we taught my sweet daughter that she wasn’t allowed to cry. I had to call each family member and let them tell her that they did break down. I had to let them tell her that they did cry and that she was ok to cry.
This simple truth changed her grief completely. She was free to cry if she wanted to. She was free to be upset. If we would have let her see our grief, she may have had a healthier frame of reference for how she could grieve.
So how do we do it?
Handling grief is so hard. There are days when it seems like you will be ok. Then there are hard, painful days where it all seems to be falling apart. Like a fresh wave, it all hits you again and you are left crippled by it. It can be hard to find the balance between grief and going on. Here are a few things to consider as you walk through grief in front of your children.
Do you need help?
Grief can turn to depression easily. If you find that you are having a hard time moving past your grief it may be time to get some help. There are many great grief counselors and grief groups out there where you can work on grieving in a healthy way. You are not a bad person for needing this help. When something is lost it can be very hard to find yourself and move forward.
Let them see you cry.
I don’t mean that you spend the whole day weeping. However, it is ok to let your child see you cry. It can communicate to your child that the person you lost matters. It can show your child that you are human and hurt happens. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you do in fact hurt. My children have seen me more than once, with my arms up in the air in the kitchen with tears screaming down my face as I listened to my favorite worship playlist. I am ok with this. Sometimes life is too overwhelming and grief is too painful. When it hurts, for me worship is a great way to move through the grief and find my joy again. Find the way that helps you move through the grief and do that. It doesn’t have to be worship/prayer. If you are not faith-based, find what brings you peace and focus there.
Tell them if things hurt.
My sweet friend really struggled because one of her little ones talked about the death very nonchalantly. He wasn’t trying to hurt her but it crushed her when he said these things. I want you to know there are ways to politely tell your child something makes grief harder on you. It’s ok to say, “that hurts mom’s heart. Can we focus on the good instead?” There are times that children don’t realize they are hurting you. If they knew, most times they would choose the option that didn’t hurt as much.
Teach your children about grief.
There are ways to teach your child that grief is a process. Tell them that the person that you lost was special. Some days will be harder than others. Be open and honest with your child. They will thank you for it.
Grief is such a difficult process to walk through. Be open and let your child see a healthy way to walk through this process.
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