Talking Grief, Death and Other Parenting Moments I’m Not Equipped To Handle

Every time I tackle a parenting milestone, “I’m not getting any sleep”, “they don’t eat vegetables” or “she’s just so shy” and I feel triumphant on the other side…. another moment appears to slam me back to earth – reminding me I may never feel as though I truly have a handle on parenting.

And ohhhh….. when it comes to grief?  To death?  I looked into their sweet faces, I caught their tears in my hands as they fell…. and I held my breath…. knowing they were getting ready to ask me questions that I, as an adult, still find myself asking….

How do you handle these conversations with your children?

  • Sara Hawkins

    The wonderful thing about being an empathic, caring, involved and connected parent is that even when you say things that sound weird to our grown up ears, they often just sound like “I Love You and I will help make it better” to our kids. Our first very personal experience with death was when our dog died. Not a person, but there is a special connection. We had talked about death prior because my grandmother had been very ill and we weren’t certain of the outcome. Fortunately, she has made a full recovery. So when our dog died, I kind of expected more questions and sadness and similar emotions that I would have. But the reality was that this had been my dog for 17 years and only my daughter’s dog for 5 years. And while she was sad and going to miss the dog, my daughter didn’t have a lot of the emotions I expected. Instead, she wrote a simple note “My dog died today and I am sad” and drew a picture of the dog and taped it to the outside of the front door. She said it was for everyone to know so they’d be sad too and then I wouldn’t have to have all the sadness.

    I know it’s not the same as when a person dies, but it taught me that sometimes kids get it and we just need to accept that they got it without trying to explain it until we’re OK. I was given the advice that we can’t expect our children to have our same emotions. What excites a child does not always excite us as parents. And while death is often a universal time of sadness, it’s not that children don’t experience it rather they experience it differently.

    The most important thing to remember when having difficult conversations with our children is to always do it with love.

  • Nicole Laws

    I am in the same position as you I suppose in some ways.  I still dont understand death and why it happens to many far to soon. I actually have a bit of a fear of death.  Unfortunately I answer questions more often as I would like.  A friend died last year from breast cancer at age 38 and my friend lost her baby at 28 weeks.  The most profound & unexpected death I experienced was the loss of my father in law 8 years ago.  We talk of him often and recently I have gotten many questions from my 5 yr old.  
    It can be hard to answer in terms they understand and that wont in the end scare them.  We visit his grave on birthdays, the day he died, and sometimes holidays.  The last question I got was when we said we were visiting gpa the dat he died.  We arrived and Parker asked mommy where is gpa?  Where is his house?  I realized he didnt understand.  I had to further explain what death really means, ect.  He actually reviewed it with me just yesterday.  Asking questions, almost seeking out if he understood.  He was upset because he finally realized death is final.  Something I even struggle with.  He didnt want me to leave him and wanted me to hold him. 
    My friend who past last year had a son the same age as my oldest who is 7.  I will never forget when CJ asked me ” Is he going to get a new mommy now?  When I asnwered no he just cried and said “that is so sad.” 
    Danielle it is so hard to explain and make them fully understand.  As an adult I struggle to grasp and understand.  All we can do is love them,  listen, be honest, and answer the best way we can in kid terms.  Im so very sorry for both of your losses.  xoxo

  • Danielle Smith

    Nicole – thank you so much for this.  On one hand, it hurts my heart to know you are struggling with the same questions, queries and ‘hurts’ from your children as I am,… but I’m also comforted to know I am not alone.  Thank you so much for the gift of this.  I am so grateful.  It seems you have had to answer these questions on a much more personal level than I and I appluad your ability to do so…. it is such a challenge of parenting.  Your children are blessed to have you. Thank you.

  • Danielle Smith

    Sara – I’m so grateful.  I can honestly say I have had each of these conversations with my children ‘with love’… I haven’t always had the answers, I haven’t known if I was ‘saying the right thing’, but I have loved them through it – thank you so VERY much for telling me that is enough.  I truly needed to hear it.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.