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Our Children Don't Just need Us to be Strong After Loss

A toddler with medium brown hair and a white bow with their tongue sticking out wearing a onesie that says

Don't Hide Your Grief

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.

Embrace Your Vulnerability

I recently interviewed Sydney Ford for the Ugly Cry Podcast. She is a juvenile defense attorney who has counseled children through grief since she was a teenager, after losing her own father as a child. She told me that the navigating grief and loss with children should be age appropriate and also direct. Otherwise, our children become afraid to ask us their questions. This is where we begin the pattern that leads to the silence around grief that we so often feel. When I pushed back, imagining my own fear around explaining death to a child, she reminded me that there is no light and fun way to honestly discuss these topics, and that is okay. It is okay not to have all the answers.


I understand that this is no easy ask. Of course there are moments that can and should remain private. Not every single moment of grief needs to be on display. But, if we can open up even a little bit to our children, we can show them that it is normal to have hard days. We can also show them how we seek out support and resources on our bad days. We model for them, so that when the day comes that they experience their next loss, they can use those very same tools.


There is another beautiful layer to this kind of vulnerability. I believe that vulnerability is one of the essential parts of practicing self-love. The reality is, it is so very brave to admit that we are not okay. It is so brave to accept help and honor our emotions by allowing them to come up. As we do this more, we are reminding ourselves that our feelings are valid, and that we are deserving of acceptance, love and respect. Through this self-love practice we don't only show our children that grief is a normal human experience, we also show the beauty of being a perfectly imperfect human.

A man wearing glasses has a small child on his shoulders, both are looking at the camera and smiling

Keep Going

However you decide to move forward, I want to remind you that being perfectly imperfect means that it is so very hard sometimes. This path you are walking is so incredibly challenging. You are doing great. Keep going.


You can listen to my interview with Sydney on Ugly Cry anywhere you stream podcasts. We go in depth about talking to children about grief and her own experience with loss. Subscribe to our channel to be sure you don't miss it.


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