Grief is a funny thing.
A natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. But what happens when you aren’t able to grieve? In the past few years I’ve had to deal with the death of my grandparents along with the divorce of my parents. In each of these situations, I’ve been tasked with being the one to deliver the news to my children. I was there for their grief and helped them process – and because of that, I never had the chance to grieve fully, myself. Or at least, the way I would prefer to grieve.
While I am probably not the best person to give advice for mental health, I have had experience.
Here are a few ways I’ve been able to process my grief while still staying in the trenches of parenting:
Be present for your family: Our most recent situation was with the death of my grandma. Both of my kids are old enough to understand death, and both dealt with her loss in their own way. Talking through what was happening allowed me to be with them while also giving myself the chance to talk out my feelings. It showed my boys that being sad is OK and that everyone has the chance to grieve in their own way.
Take time for yourself: On the flip side, you also should take time for yourself if you need it. When my grandma had passed I already had plans to go to an event with my friends. I took that time so I could be with my friends and have some fun without the stresses of my kids. It was nice to be able to get away, talk about what was happening on my own terms and only have to worry about myself.
Find joy: When you’re in the trenches it’s hard to come up for air. The smallest things make you feel like the world is crumbling around you. Find the joy in your everyday life; don’t search for the grand. If your kid is telling a funny joke, laugh. Do a deep belly laugh. It may not be the funniest joke you’ve ever heard, but finding joy will make the dark a little lighter.
Give grace: When you’re dealing with grief and kids, life can get rough. Give yourself grace so if you do make a mistake and blow up on your family, you can apologize, step back and see what you can do to make positive changes. Also, if you give your family grace it can help in those situations as well. Know that they’re dealing with all of this too and those changes can cause everyone to act in ways that aren’t normal.
The most important thing I’ve learned in the past few years is that if you’ve taken all these steps and it isn’t enough, it’s OK to seek help.
Get an outlet with a friend or a professional. Even if it’s just an hour every few weeks, it gives you someone to talk to, work out your feelings and ways to help handle your emotions.