My children hate seeing me sad or mad. They want me to be happy, to smile. They need to know that I’m okay, because if I’m okay, their world is okay.
But what about the times it isn’t okay? What happens when the walls cave in and the heart explodes and ache can’t be hidden? What then? How do I grieve in front of my children without putting it on them?
Sometimes we carry our own childhood fears and experiences into our parenting without realizing it, and other times we are quite aware of it and we make vows to protect ourselves and our children. We believe we’re protecting them, but perhaps it’s possible we’re avoiding the opportunity to teach them about pain and grief and how to express it all. We need to teach our kids how to be human, how to feel and process and not hide, how to be naked and unashamed in our grief.
There’s wisdom in being aware and not laying our heavy burdens on little hearts that are not ready, but I think it’s good and helpful and kind to let our children see our humanity and our grief and how to deal with it in healthy ways.
After my mother died, I decided to let my children in on my grief.
I sat my children down and explained to them that I was sad about Grandma Suzy and that at times they were going to see me cry. I told them I was okay, that it was normal to be sad, and that they didn’t have to worry about me or be afraid. I told them that showing sadness was nothing to be ashamed of. I then hugged each of my kiddos and told them how very much I loved them.
And then, when the grief hit randomly, I cried. I didn’t hide from them. I wanted them to see the reality of grief so that one day, when they grieve, they would know it’s not shameful or ugly or something to hide or run from. They would know it’s a part of life, of the human experience, of sin and death in this world and also of the hope that one day there will be no more grieving or death, no tears or broken hearts. I wanted them to know it’s okay to feel when they need to feel, cry when they need to cry, and scream into their pillow when the pain is too great and their whole body might explode from the fire of it all.
They can’t learn how to do that if I hide it from them.
One thing I didn’t anticipate in my grieving was the blessing of comfort my children would give me. My youngest daughter, who was seven at the time of my mom’s death, felt with me. One afternoon, during that first week of grieving, I was going through pictures of my mom, and I started crying. My sweet little girl, who knew this was okay and normal and not going to last forever, held a little fabric angel in her hands that hospice had given me. She was looking at it and at me, and she began to cry gently. She was feeling my ache. She came over, sat on my lap, and hugged me. We cried together, weeping over the loss of Grandma Susy. Did my girl feel her own pain at the loss of her grandma? I’m sure she did, but she didn’t really know my mom since she was only a toddler when my mom had moved away. But she felt grieved anyway, and it was so dear.
Afterwards, we wiped our eyes, kissed, and carried on. We were okay together.
The gift of a child’s comfort, I am convinced, is straight from the heart of God, their little arms showing us His arms. The comfort of a child is both overwhelming and healing.
This is the gift of grief: healing comfort is experienced through the tender intimacy of shared vulnerability. And to experience this gift with your child is nothing short of precious and a rare grace.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Sometimes it good for you to show your kids you are human. That you have emotions too. You as a parent. Feel sadnesses always. I know you as parent don’t like your kids to see you sad. You as parents like to try a be big a brave in front of them. Always being happy having all the answers to the their we questions. Showing them every thing is ok. You have to tell them it ok to to sad as well as happy. It is ok to see your parents sad and happy. So you as parents have to pray to God to know what to say to your beautiful kids. When they see you sad. Not be afraid to tell them the truth. Mummy is Sad because she has because she has lost your Grandmother that was her Mummy too. But Jesus is with us all. Jesus will heal us and make us smile again. We will always miss her. But one day we will see her again in Heaven. It good for Mummy to cry as well. We all along with you kids have good memories of Granny. Days spent together if the kids knew her. Even if your kids were small. We can say to Jesus thank you for those days we had her on earth. Then give the kids a hug. Let the kids give you their Mum a hug. Tell the kids they have not lost all. They will one day see their Grandmother again and so will you in Heaven with Jesus. You have that to look forward too. I believe it good to show your kids you feel sadnesses too and feel happiness too and not to hide the sadness from them that you feel. Trying all the time to make them feel you are always happy. When you are not. It good for them to know that too. So they can give you a hug and say it ok for Mummy to be happy and sad at times. We love you and so does Jesus. Let them know you feel it too. Love today’s reading. Jesus himself felt saddness he let people know it to. He was human too. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxx
This is a wise and well-written article. Thank you for writing something I know to be true and can share with others who need to hear this, also. Bless you.
Beth Williams says
Parents should never hide emotions. It is important for children to know that grief, crying, sadness, happiness are all a part of this life. They learn by watching you parents. Even little children have emotions & they need to learn how to express them. When a friend, loved dies or any trial hits & you are sad sit the children down & talk about it. Tell them to express their emotions. You both can comfort each other in that time. It will carry them into adult hood when trials will hit them. You may not be around to assist them, but they will have the knowledge to understand that crying is alright. It is suitable to cry in that moment. Let your children see you grieving, crying upset. They can help you get through it & in turn you can help them through their own griefs.
Francee Strain says
Sending hugs and praying for you, Sarah Mae.
Karen Knowles says
Excellent post, Sarah Mae! I love 2 Cor. !:3-4.
Theresa Boedeker says
We really do teach our children so much as they watch us grieve. We teach them that hard times happen to all, but we can get through them. Which helps them when they have their own trials as adults. It shows them God’s faithfulness. It teaches them they don’t always have to be happy to be loved. It teaches them so many things.