Parenting is all about multitasking but what happens when one of those tasks is grief?
I recently read a post from our sister blog in Providence called Grief: Saying Good-Bye When You’re “Not That Close.”
I thought the author Niki Robinson was spot on in articulating her experience and very brave to share where judgement or the fear of judgement comes into the grief experience.
It made me realize I’ve written about kids and grief, but not being a parent while grieving. As parents we multitask all the time. But when one of those tasks is to grieve it is hard to do much else.
Have you seen the NyQuil commercial where the parent asks the little kid for a sick day? It’s funny because it’s true.
Parents don’t get sick days, and sometimes it’s hard as a parent to get the time you need to grieve.
As a grief therapist I always read the author’s bio before I read an article related to grief. Niki Robinson is not a grief professional; she is a mom who bravely shared her experience. I felt proud of her without even knowing her, and inspired to write my own post both as a grief specialist and as a mom.
For me it is hard enough to separate out being a grief professional from my own grief but also to balance being a mom can be extra tough. I have relied on my village and had my kids stay at daycare a little longer or an extra day when I have needed some time to heal.
One point she made that I thought was so important was the judgement one can feel about your relationship with the deceased and the timeline of your grief. How close with the deceased does not matter. We all grieve in different ways and for different reasons. Sometimes when there were unwanted emotions or unresolved issues we can grieve more intensely.
Also grief has no official timeline and it definitely doesn’t have an expiration date.
If you are at your child’s soccer game cheering them on shortly after a death because you are a parent first and foremost and want to keep your child’s routine as normal as possible, it may appear you aren’t grieving.
Of course you are! You are just also parenting!
If you are still struggling a year in and you feel judged by those that want you to be “over it,” know those people are wrong! Even if you didn’t have to keep putting your grief aside to be there for your family it can take as long as it needs to take.
As a parent the amount of times a day we have to put our grief, or anger, or frustration, etc in a box and be smiling and “on” for our kids is infinite. In my book this makes grieving parents heroes. Maybe even superheroes.
And those times you can’t put it in a box…don’t judge it!
You are modeling grief and expression of emotions for your children, what a gift! Talk about it. Small, age appropriate conversations that will help them with their grief now and in the future.
There was mention in the blog post previously linked that young children don’t experience grief in a meaningful way. I totally get why the author felt this way and in someways it is true. A young child is not going to have the same level of grief and see the same meanings as you do.
However, kids do grieve and they understand in a way that is meaningful to them.
Young children may not understand finality, but they can feel loss and empathy. So have conversations to figure out what that is for your child at their age. Grief doesn’t go away. Sometimes it gets shelved and then revisited. This is especially true for children. As they hit different developmental milestones they will grieve in new meaningful ways.
There as a quote from Jamie Anderson at the end of the post that has been making its way around social media:
Grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot…All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling…. Grief is just love with no place to go.
The quote is beautiful. Grief is often love. But it can also be hate and confusion and a million other emotions.
Grief is complicated. Grief is personal. It’s yours to own.
I guess the same can be said about parenting.
Remember: yes we are often a parent before all else, but we can’t fully be there for our kids if we aren’t there for ourselves. Take time to grieve. Take time for self care. Ask for help. I promise, self care is not selfish and your kids will be better for it.
May your grief journey be peaceful and healing.