Coping with grief and loss when you have Children
This is a hard subject for anyone, but I think it’s an important one. We all cope with grief and loss. Some of us have lost loved ones sooner than we expected, but eventually, we all lose someone we love. This is hard enough for adults to deal with, but it’s even harder when you have young children who may be struggling to cope themselves to understand it. This post isn’t about those children, but about you and me. As parents, we feel we need to be strong for our children and always be there for them, to put them first. But at the end of the day you need to remember to look after yourself too. You need to be able to be physically and mentally well to continue on, taking the memory of your loved ones with you.
Create a special place you can visit
Having a special place that you can visit by yourself is very important in my opinion. If your loved one has been buried, you can get a memorial headstone with a message that helps you and the whole family remember them. By browsing memorial headstones you can find something that reflects your loved one and their relationship with the world.
If you don’t have access to the grave site because you live far away, or because your loved one was cremated, you can still create a memorial of you own in a great deal of ways. It could be one in your garden, or in a public place, perhaps somewhere you spent time together. You could plant a tree in their memory, have a garden or public bench engraved or simply have a special place in your mind where you can go to think of them.
Spending time at a memorial thinking about our loved ones helps continue the bond, lets us take time out to remember them and to talk to them.
Have a physical memento
This is a subject that I feel is close to my heart and I’ve talked before about how I now live in the house that my grandparents lived in and that my uncle (who was the only male role model in my life) died in, before he left the house to me. More than one person has asked me if I feel I’m surrounded by ghosts – but it’s not like that at all. I feel surrounded by people I loved and who loved me, in the house that I lived in as a baby and spent every single day in growing up. Having this house connects me to those who aren’t here anymore. Having a reminder in the home of your loved ones can be a great source of comfort, obviously in my case, it’s the house itself, but it doesn’t need to be that extreme. It can be a photo of a loved one, a piece of furniture or home decor or a piece of jewellery for example. It can be something from their garden or anything that reminds of the love you shared when you look at it or use it.
Keep the memories alive by talking about your loved one to your children
I’m often saddened by the fact that my son will have no memories of my grandparents or my aunt and uncle who I was incredibly close to, but I think that talking about your memories and the way your family influenced you is a great way to keep their memory alive. For example I cook with recipes that my grandmother taught me and I’m going to teach those to my son. I make sure he knows that we live in the house that has been in our family for three generations now and I talk about my uncle’s great passion which was video games, something we can continue to bond over.
Take time to fulfil your needs
Grief is hard. There is no quick fix. It is something slow and steady that takes years and decades to become less overwhelming – and it never goes away completely. You can better cope with your grief and loss when you make sure you’re mentally strong. Self care becomes critical at times of stress and overwhelm, so take the time to sit down and think about how you can improve things. Whether it’s going for a walk every day, spending time with your pets, doing Yoga or meditating, lighting a scented candle, taking a holiday to clear the cobwebs, or just freeing up 15 minutes extra in the morning to sit in the garden with a cup of tea and a book. It’s different for all of us, but I feel confident that if you stop and think about it you’ll find some way of relaxing, de-stressing and working on your mental health. This is the time when it needs to be about what YOU need, so take off that parent hat and focus on yourself for a moment. For me, the time I can spend writing is a big help to my mental health when I’m feeling lost and overwhelmed.
As parents we often sacrifice our own well being to give our children as much as we can, but it’s okay to focus on yourself and the whole family will benefit in the long term.
Ask for help with your grief
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please ask for help. Your friends, family and even neighbours will rally around you in a time of crisis. If you’re struggling, reach out and let someone know and accept the help they can offer. Maybe they can just help you clean the house, walk the dog, look after the kids for a few hours, maybe they can bring some food over or if your loss is fresh, help you with funeral arrangements. There is nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about in wanting and needing the support of other people.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support
Loss is a heavy burden and you don’t need to bear it alone. There are support groups and charities who can offer expert help for those who are struggling with grief and in some situations, your doctor may even be able to help. Cruse Bereavement Care are a charity who offer support, help and advice to anyone when someone dies. You can even self-refer for mental health in many areas, which doesn’t mean taking tablets – it can mean just getting resources and help for mindfulness and meditation.
If you still have a child under five remember that your community health visitor is there for the whole family – both you and the children, and may offer open clinics or home visits to families in need.
Other posts that you may find useful if you are struggling with the loss of someone you know include: