I wish I could take away their struggle, their pain, and I would if I could… I mean, what parent wants to see their kids hurt? It just so happens that my kids’ struggle has shown up so early on in their little lives, with the death of their father, and well, how could that not be hard? How could that be without struggle? So, my oldest daughter who is now five, was just a little over two years old when her father died, and at that age, the loss was felt, but the understanding of death, not so much… And so her grief has shown up in different ways over the years… Anger at her best friend for having a loving dad when she doesn’t, sad that other kids have dads and she doesn’t, fear of me dying, fear of me dying and fear that it would be her fault, fear of her dying, fear of other close loved ones dying, frustration at trying to understand what her father as a spirit even means, lots and lots of questions about how a person can actually die, and an overall feeling that she refers to as “feeling funny,” that has become the catchall phrase for feeling scared, sad, or mad, when she can’t pinpoint exactly what it is she’s feeling.
And so at first when she started having lots of grief come up about 6 months ago, as she began to have more awareness and ability to understand death, I worried a lot. I wanted to help her make peace with it all, quickly… It was really hard to see her worrying, sad, and angry. I just wanted to help make it all better. But over time, I’ve come to understand that my role is not to take away her pain, take away her struggle, or to fix “it,” nor could it be. This is a part of her journey, this is her God-given path. I am here to facilitate her process, help her understand her feelings, be here as a loving and stable support through her tears, frustrations, and fears… And so I make sure I have lots of support for myself so that I can best support her.
Here are some ways that I support her and me throughout this process: I have a great grief workbook for parents to do with their kids called, Grief Encounter, I consult with colleagues in the psychology field who specialize in kids and bereavement and actually just scheduled a session for us to meet with an art therapist, I actively work on my own feelings of grief that arise, I encourage creative expression to “move the mood” and understand her feelings (through dancing, drawing, or other art), I pray and talk to her dad’s spirit and teach her to do the same, and am currently in search of a kids bereavement group, cause when I mentioned to her that there are groups of kids who get together who have all lost a parent, she wanted to go that very instant. I offer plenty of validation that what she is going through it not easy, that kids that have experienced a loss such as hers, will undoubtedly feel angry, sad, and scared. And I give lots of hugs, and lots of reassurance that it will all be ok, and I believe it when I say it.
It’s been a process of surrendering to our life and circumstances “as is,” it’s been a process of seeking out the best support for her and I both, and it’s been a process of finding courage and trust amidst the fears and doubts. I think it’s also about trusting in the resilience of the human spirit. But it’s hard. Sometimes I don’t think parenting gets any harder than this. But then I think each parent will have their struggles with their children at various stages and ages… My youngest daughter who is just a little over two has just begun to express the sadness and ache of not having her daddy hold her, and so I reassure her of how loved she is by both her daddy and her family, and I hold her tight.
So, whatever struggle you’re going through as a parent or as a human, please let me reassure you that it will all be ok, and that you are so loved and supported on this journey by help that is seen and unseen, and that this experience will grow you, it will stretch you, and it will strengthen you. It is your soul work. You can do it, and so can I.