As parents we hope that we can protect our children from all the bad of the world. It is this urge that makes us want to cover and disguise our grief. It makes us hide our tears in the shower, and scream in the car parked in the driveway. If this is you, know that I have been there too.
In the wake of a loss, we can feel shattered - brought to our knees even. And yet, if we are grieving as well as parenting children, we are asked to "stay strong". We believe that it is in our strength that we help shield our children from the pain of grief and loss.
However, sometimes there is too much focus on this small piece - the strong piece. And while it is true that grief will force us to summon a level of strength that we might doubt that we have at times, if we are only strong, we miss an important opportunity. We have a chance to bring grief out of silence, and model healthy coping habits.
In the wake of my own loss, I decided to fight every single instinct that I had to "be strong" and stand up tall, pretending I was okay when I was very much not okay. I did this because I believe that grief should not be carried alone and in private.
The reality is that children see so much more than we give them credit for. By not acknowledging my grief, I wasn't protecting my child from loss. The loss was there if we looked it in the eye or not. To me, refusing to have hard moments in front of my son was a lesson of its own. I would be teaching him that grief is shameful, heavy, terrifying, and meant to be dealt with alone behind a locked door.