Parenting and Grief
I recently lost my father, whom I love so dearly and deeply.
It has only been a few months, but I feel that I can offer something in this blog to families as a mother, as a pediatrician, and as a daughter. If you are placed in this situation, it is important to understand that you cannot be the perfect parent/caregiver as you help your children. Even with perfect finesse, insight and resources, this process will still be difficult for your child.
Get help from the experts
Whatever the situation (diagnosis of an unremitting illness, sudden death, undisclosed cause of death, etc.) – ask the experts. Ask your pediatrician, child psychologists or school counselors to help you break the news to your children and help them with the process. (sidebar: I have heard the work “process” so much lately – yet it is the right word!). Check out books and online resources. Child psychologists can offer you so much wisdom and insight as to how to talk to your child for their age and development stage. As the parent, you likely know best, but experts can still be very helpful in this situation.
Take advantage of family or individual counseling. There are so many mini-journeys in this odyssey and some journeys will be greatly assisted by the use of counseling.
Let your “parent radar” guide you, but as much as possible, try not to hide your feelings and yourself from your children. Filter your emotions accordingly to your situation and child. Remember that children are smart and insightful. They can tell when something is up. They worry about their parents. They worry about why their parents are acting differently. Older children may recognize your sadness and wonder why you would want to hide it from them.
Use your friends and other support systems
This is when your real friends want to be used. They want to help. They might not know how to help, but they will welcome your requests for help. You will find yourself surrounded with such friends – you are blessed indeed.
If you have support systems in your faith system, look into it. Many faith organizations have infrastructures that have been set up to help you in so many ways. Often, these infrastructures have organized grief programs, cancer programs and the like.
Ask your physician, their nurse, social worker and others who may be involved in your lives at these times. There are so many resources out there but without knowledge and awareness, you cannot access them.
Give yourself a break
It is hard to always be the role model, but being real is being a role model. It is understandable to worry how your child will remember this as they later on, may navigate troubles. It is ok. They will likely remember that their parent felt real emotions, was honest and had real love for special people in his/her life.
Have some structure
This is a hard one because when trying for maintaining structure, don’t overburden yourself. Children thrive on and find security in structure. But you can only do so much, so do what you can. Structure may be keeping some meals together; making a pattern/habit of visiting your sick loved one, maintenance of a carpool or an activity. If you can, keep some structure. If you cannot, it is ok.
I have shared many different topics with you in the past. I never fathomed sharing one on grief. I do hope you never find this article relevant in your life but if these matters of life do cross your path, hopefully my words are of some help.