This was not my experience-all my children were adults when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven-but so many grieving parents want to know: Should I let my younger children see me cry?
How much is too much for them to witness, process and hear?
Do I need to shield them from the awful truth of how much this hurts? CAN I shield them?
May I first say that there is NO way to shield even an infant from the overflowing emotions, stress and strain of child loss in his or her family. If we stop and think about it, we know this. And older children may look like they aren’t paying attention, but they are.
So the question is not really, “Can I shield them” but is instead, “How do I help them understand what’s happening”?
Grief in this life is inevitable.
Allowing our children to watch us grieve helps them understand how it’s done. When we share openly, we give them tools and models for sharing too.
I think it’s important to be honest with even the youngest among us.
When a parent speaks of the deep pain of loss, expresses love for the missing ones and looks longingly at photos and mementos, he or she is saying to the watching child: “Love lives. Love is important. Love lasts even when our bodies don’t. I will always love you just like I love your brother (or sister).”
Young children will create their own script if adults don’t help them write one.
Because their minds are not fully developed, they will often connect odd bits into an unhealthy whole. Just as some children decide they are responsible for their parents’ divorce, some surviving siblings think that a random act of disobedience resulted in the death of a sister or brother.
And if a parent is modeling secrecy or a stiff upper lip, that child may never reveal her dark and weighty secret.
We can help our children by providing a safe space where they can express themselves freely without fear of correction or being silenced. It might get ugly. Our grief gets ugly. It’s part of the process.
But children should never become the burden bearers for adults.
Crying in front of your child is OK. Screaming, yelling, blaming and violence is not.
No child should feel threatened or unsafe in his own home. If you are out of control, THAT is the time to go to a room and close the door. Or call a friend to come get the kids so you have a few hours alone. Or send them outside to play. It is NOT the time to unload on your surviving child(ren).
I wish that grief was not part of life.
But it is.
How I deal with it, what I say about it, when and how I express it will impact my children for good or ill.
I want to offer them tools they can use and build resilience for what they may face in the future.
Letting them see me-especially the grieving me-is an important part of that process.
5 thoughts on “Should I Let My Young Children See Me Cry?”
Circumstances sometimes dictate our response. My children were 5 and 7 when their 3½ year old sister was killed in a rollover. I was the driver. Their father, who’d left me for another woman prior to her birth, also sued me for her death. I was being watched by the courts in a custody battle. I learned to schedule my grief for Sundays if my children were not with me. To this day, 30 years later, Sundays remain one of my hardest days. It’s a family day, and a day when I attend church and get quiet and real. I personally felt it best not to have my children report to their father or counselor(s) that their mother cried all the time. Custody battles are enough of a game in using the children in that respect and grieving in front of them would not have helped my case. Both children are now very productive citizens.
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Im going to try this again my son has been gone now for 16 months and left behind 3 children and 2 boys 1 girl he commit suicide and my grand daughter was there when he shot his self she dont say much but i know she is very broken hearted so bad the nite it happen we had the youngest with us and the oldest.was with his mother emma was 10 and when her other grandmother got there she was hiding underneath something i cry in front of her and we talk about what a great her dad was and share as many memories about his child hood ect her mother remarried with in a month of his passing im really worried about all 3 of them im coming to the retreat on the 20th in amory im excited to come but scared to thank you so much for sharring your post with us that there hearts are ripped apart there soul is gone after losing 3 children im a complete mess wreck whatever you want to call me i feel im losing my life and my mind thank you so much for the love and the care you have for me you know how it feels no need to say much more first time to let out some of my feelings
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This is so good Melanie! My other children are adults also but my grandchildren……how I worry about how they are (or are not!) being allowed to process the grief of losing their Dad!!!
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I know several adults who were not allowed to see their own parents’ grief and constructed some unhelpful narratives in their childish minds about what was going on. I feel so strongly that children need to see us grieve as an example, just as they need to see us love as an example. I pray that your grandchildren will be allowed to do that. I know it is not in your control, so I pray that the Lord will make a way. ❤