Children and Grief – We Should Teach them How to Process their Feelings, Not How to Hide Them
There are times where its perfectly fine and normal to hide our stress, anxiety, fears and hurts from our children. And yet there are other times when hiding these feelings from them could cause more long-term damage then we realize.
I DO hide certain pain points from my children and I recommend you do the same.
As women, we tend to have lots of body image insecurities that we should try our very best NOT to pass on. don’t hate your body in front of your kids. They don’t need to learn to criticize themselves because that’s what their mama always did.
Money fears are a stress that young children have no business carrying. I’m not saying you should buy them everything they want or give them unrealistic expectations of your financial situation but don’t share adult financial worries with them. Being a child is about being a child, worry free and happy. Not about wondering if mom might lose her job or not have somewhere to live.
Adult relationship problems are NOT for your kids. These are any and all adult relationships.
So if all these things are off the table then what types of stress, anxiety, fears or hurts SHOULD we share?
Realistic ones. Ones that actually involve your child and not just your own personal feelings. Things that your child will one-day experience themselves as adults. They will remember the way mom and dad handled things and most likely follow your lead.
Recently my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was supposed to have a simple surgery to remove the spot on his lung and that would be the end of it. Or so we thought.
He went in for surgery, they found much more inside of him than anticipated meaning he would need chemotherapy and radiation. As we tried to absorb this news while he was in recovery he ended up having a major stroke from a blood clot. He was barely able to talk and was paralyzed on one side.
His condition continued to deteriorate from there, his 81-year-old body just unable to recover from all these various medical issues happening to him. Within two weeks we were forced to make the decision to move him to hospice as there was just no way he would be able to recover from the stroke and then still go through the process of dealing with cancer. He died within a few days.
I never once tried to hide this from my girls. Sickness and dying are a part of life. They will continue to experience these things for the rest of their life.
They were initially scared of their PePaw because he was hooked up to so many machines but they eventually got used to seeing him this way and could give him hugs and kisses and talk to him even when he couldn’t respond.
How heartbroken I would be not if my children had not gotten to spend those precious moments with him.
I think now if I should have done things differently. If maybe I showed them too much. But I keep answering no. It wasn’t too much. They are smarter, more capable and resilient then we realize.
Yes, they are sad. But they also understand. That its OKAY to be sad. Being sad just means that you loved someone so much that it hurts when they are gone. Being sad is NOT a shameful feeling that should be hidden behind closed doors.
Being sad is not even a negative feeling. There is no such thing as a negative feeling. We might not like to feel sadness and grief but that doesn’t make it a BAD feeling. It is just a normal human feeling that we all have at one time or another.
What we need to teach our children is what to DO with these feelings, how to process them. How to express them in appropriate ways.
When we treat grief as a negative feeling we are teaching our children that feeling grief is bad. That there is something wrong with grieving.
Imagine the damage we could cause if we never showed our children how to grieve and be sad? Imagine the ways that they would try and funnel out all these emotions? Could it turn into anger? Lashing out at others or themselves? Could it start a cycle of self-hurt? How long do you think your children might carry these feelings around before they explode out of them?
Lets instead teach our children to feel. Let’s show our children that feeling is okay, even when it hurts. Be a good example of how to grieve.
Your children will have questions. Lots of questions. They may understand and they may not.
My two year old only asks “mommy okay?” when she watches me cry. I respond with a “mommy is just sad. I miss Pepaw”. She cuddles me and kisses me because that’s what I do for her when she is sad.
My four year old knows that PePaw lives with Jesus now, along with Dora, our 16-year-old dog we had to put down a few months ago. She often asks if he is coming back and I explain that sick people live with Jesus so they don’t have to be sick anymore.
Often she sees me crying and says “I know you are sad mommy but Pepaw went to McDonald’s for bacon and he just doesn’t want to see you anymore”. So does she really get it? Maybe not. But we keep talking about it.
It’s not a secret, and it’s not bad.
It’s real, raw and hard.
But we cant always protect our kids from the hard parts of life. And grief is one of those emotions that we SHOULD expose them to, even when it hurts.
Have you had to experience the loss of a loved one with your children yet? I would love to hear the ways you helped your own children grieve.