Why It’s So Important to Model Grief For Our Children & Grandchildren

It’s tempting to try to hide our tears and fears from our living children and grandchildren.  

Who wants to overload a young heart and mind with grown-up problems?

There is definitely a place and time to shelter little people-it’s never appropriate to offload onto small shoulders what we just don’t want to carry ourselves.

But it is neither helpful nor healthy to pretend that sorrow and sadness don’t follow loss.  

im fine now read it upside down

When I stuff feelings and insist on keeping a “stiff upper lip” I’m telling my kids that it’s not OK to admit that they are struggling.

When I act like it’s no big deal to set up the Christmas tree and deck the halls without their brother here, I’m encouraging them to remain silent instead of speaking up if their hearts are heavy instead of happy.

When I never voice my discomfort with certain activities or social events I am modeling a false front and fake smiles.  

Of course, there are times we all have to suck it up and suck it in along this path.  But that shouldn’t be the norm.  As I’ve said over and over before-if we stuff our hearts full of unreleased feelings, we leave no room for the grace and mercy God wants to pour into them.

I can tell you that many, many folks have interviewed surviving siblings years and decades after their brother or sister left and have consistently discovered that most of them tried hard to live up to whatever standards their grieving parents set. 

If Mom and Dad refused to talk about the loss, then they refused to talk about it too.  If, on the other hand, the family observed open communication, they were able to process feelings in real time instead of stuffing and having to deal with them later.

family never gets over the death of a loved one

One of the greatest challenges in child loss (or any profound loss) is creating space within our closest grief circle to allow each person affected to express themselves whatever that looks like.  

But it’s so, so important!  

Don’t hide your tears.  

Don’t shut down the questions.  

Don’t lock away the uncertainty and anxiety child loss brings in a trunk and only bring it out when no one’s watching.  

Because the little people (and not so little people) in your house are ALWAYS watching.  

They need permission to grieve.  ❤

Capacity-to-grieve

Repost: The Loudest Silence

No matter how busy or how noisy or how frantic, in the middle of my chest there is a quiet place that holds space for my missing child.

It was true last year in the craziness of my mother’s health crisis and it’s been so very, very true this past eight weeks full of anxiety, discomfort, challenge and unbelievable stress.  

Read the rest here:  The Loudest Silence

Grace and Space

It didn’t take long after Dominic’s leaving for life to ramp up and obligations to pour in. We had two graduations and a wedding within two months of his funeral.

Then there were thank-you notes to write, dishes to return and every day chores necessary to manage a home and family.

No escaping what must be done.

It took me a little while to realize that if I was going to survive this lifelong journey I had to make some changes in how and when I responded to requests to do something, be somewhere or participate in outside events.   Because no matter how worthy the request, there was only so much of me to go around and I was forced to spend nearly all my energy and time and effort on figuring out how this great wound was impacting me and my family.

I cannot overemphasize how much strength and energy is needed to do the work grief requires.

At first, turning down a request or asking someone to reschedule was relatively easy-the loss was fresh in their minds and they were gracious and understanding.  As the weeks and months and now YEARS have passed, it is harder.  Not always because they don’t understand but because I sometimes hold myself to an untenable standard that says I should be better by now.   I should be able to do all that I could once do.  I shouldn’t be so sensitive to the date on the calendar or the place we might meet for lunch or the rainy weather that brings my mood down.

But I’m not able to ignore all those things and sometimes I just can’t do what someone else would like me to be able to do.

So I keep repeating the mantra, “grace and space” to myself.

I need grace-from my own heart FOR my own heart– I must cut myself the slack I would be happy to extend to others.

I need grace from friends and family. I cannot help you understand exactly what it’s like to be me.  You can never know all the ways I ache for the life I had before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  You could never imagine all the daily pinpricks my soul must suffer as I walk in this world and am reminded of what I’ve lost.

So you will have to take it on faith when I say, “I just can’t do that”.

I need space.

I need space between me and the noise of the world and the shouting urgency of “to do” lists and project deadlines.  So much of the work I must do is silent, solitary work. It takes hours and hours of thinking, talking to God, reading Scripture, journaling and just being alone to sort this all out.

I’m not rejecting YOU-I’m trying to preserve ME.

It isn’t selfishness, it’s love for my family.  I refuse to add to their burden by running myself into the ground.  I won’t choose to make life harder for them by creating an unecessary crisis.

I don’t know when I might (or IF I might) return to the busy bee I once was.  Right now I can’t even imagine it.

I think I will need grace and space for a very, very long time.

fine not fine