How to Parent While Grieving: 11 Tips

Updated

The impact of grief on recently bereaved adults can have long-term effects on minor children and the family dynamic. Grieving parents face the challenges of coping with their sorrow while parenting, leading to complications in mourning. A disruption to a suffering individual's grieving process can directly affect their emotional, physical, and psychological well-being, ultimately affecting their ability to parent their children successfully.

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Continuing to give loving and meaningful support to minor children when grieving is a real challenge facing parents. Bereaved adults risk complicating their healing progress when grief prolongs. Symptoms of depression tend to seep in when parents force the compartmentalization of their suffering so that they can be there for their children. The following information will guide you to successful parenting ideas to help you get through this tough time in your life.

How Can Grief Affect Parenting?

Grief and parenting are two of life's most severe stressors that create complications for a parent suffering through emotional setbacks. The types of grief parents experience are as varied as their families. Parents of minor children experience diverse, complex, and demanding challenges while bereaved parenting. 

The effects of a parent's grief influence their children's responses to the loss and how well they adjust in the aftermath. Children most attached to the grieving parent tend to suffer deeper psychological wounds than children who aren't as close. A parent must find a way to balance their grief with their responsibilities to their children not to affect their children's emotional and cognitive development long-term. 

When looking at the effects of grief on parenting in reverse, parenting minor children helps bereaved individuals regain their sense of purpose. Parenting also serves as a distraction to their suffering. Young children bring joy to even the most profoundly painful life events. A grieving parent eventually finds respite from their grief long enough to resume their caregiving role and fulfill their children's needs.

Should You Talk to Your Children About Your Grief?

Your children's attachment styles play a significant role in how they respond to grief. Talking to your children about what you're going through is never a bad idea. Most children pick up on the hidden cues that there's something wrong or that their parent is going through a difficult time.

By taking the time to explain to them why they've noticed changes in your personality or demeanor, you can help transform your children's anger and guilt into acceptance of the situation. 

By being open and honest with your children, they learn to trust you even more, knowing that you respect them enough to tell them what's going on when things get tough. Open and effective communication with your children raises their self-esteem and gives them the needed information to process what's happening. 

Because children process information based on their age, development, and maturity level, you'll need to approach each child with explanations suitable to their stage in life. Children will process the grief experience differently based on these factors. As each takes in their understanding of grief, they'll begin to formulate their responses to your suffering.

Most children won't grasp the extent of your pain and sorrow, so go easy on them when they don't understand why things can't go back to being the way they were before your grief. Be prepared to answer your children's questions honestly without using euphemisms so that there are no misunderstandings that can lead to added confusion, stress, or anxiety. If your child withdraws after hearing the news, they may need added time to process the information.

Tips for Parenting While Grieving

There are different stages of grief that many bereaved individuals go through. While not everyone suffering will experience each step, many will do so without realizing it. You might notice a change in your demeanor initially, and you'll see that you may seem short-tempered, angry, and frustrated.

Other times, the routine tasks of parenting may seem overwhelming. These are signs of mourning. These reactions come and go depending on what's going on around you at the time. Here are some ways to help you get through these trying moments. 

Get some help from friends

There’s nothing wrong with you reaching out to your support group and asking for some assistance when needed. Most of your friends and family are already waiting on standby to jump in and help you however they can. They may not know what you need precisely that’ll make things easier for you, so you’ll have to tell them.

Don’t be afraid of asking. Make a list of ways your loved ones can pitch in, and let them decide when and where they can help. Everyone needs added love and support during difficult situations.

Take it easy on yourself

When suffering through a significant setback, you can expect your feelings and emotions to fluctuate as you learn to cope with your loss. Consider taking some time to yourself to evaluate the personal impact of your loss and how you'll fit your grief in with your responsibilities to your children and family.

You don't have to be a superhero to your children when you're grieving, and everyone will understand that you need time to figure out your loss and best deal with the consequences. 

Consider grief’s impact on others

Whenever a parent is grieving a loss, that grief affects everyone in the household. Recognize that your children can sense even the most subtle of changes, even when you do your best to hide it from them. Being a supportive step-parent or parent when you're trying to cope with your grief may seem challenging initially.

When dealing with loss, feeling overwhelmed is a natural and normal emotional response for both adults and children, even when the situation doesn't directly affect your children. Together you'll soon find ways of coping and moving forward in life. 

Join a support group

Grief support groups help bereaved parents find solace in others experiencing a similar loss or situation brought on by grief. There are many valuable free grief resources you can find online, beginning with Facebook and other similar social media apps.

Joining a group of like-minded individuals brought together by their grief will provide you an opportunity to share your experiences and learn from others on how to best deal with your circumstances. Much like grief counseling, support groups can be instrumental in getting through your loss. 

Free or Low-Cost Resources for Grieving Parents

When you’re stuck in your grief, know that there’s help out there for you. The Internet has made connecting with people and organizations even more accessible than ever, right from your smartphone. We’ve gathered the following resources to help give you a headstart with finding the support you need during this time. All of them either offer free or low-cost resources to bereaved parents. 

Compassionate Friends

The Compassionate Friends organization is well-known for offering bereavement support to individuals and families dealing with the death of a child, a brother or sister, or a grandchild. Although they aim to assist bereaved families, they provide many grief resources for free on their website that you can tailor to your bereavement needs. You’ll find free access to 24-hour support groups, crisis hotline information, and written information to help you through your grief. 

Alliance of Hope

The Alliance of Hope organization serves the needs of suicide survivors. Their website is filled with grief support resources to help you get through one of the most confusing and devastating traumas in life. They offer ways to connect with other suicide survivors, an online bookstore, chat groups and forums, and access to low-cost trained grief counselors and other professionals to help you survive your loss. 

Facebook

Facebook is an excellent place for grieving parents to find the support they need in the many grief-related forums and support groups available to join for free. Here, you can share your grief experiences with other parents facing similar setbacks.

You'll need to set up a free Facebook account before gaining access to any of these groups, but joining is fast and easy. Once you've got your account set up, take the time to search for groups that resonate with the type of loss you've suffered. 

Tips for Helping a Grieving Parent in Your Life

There will come a time when you'll have to provide support to a grieving parent, and you'll benefit from knowing a few simple tips and things to help them. Many people don't understand grief unless they've experienced a significant loss.

When you're grieving, it's hard to ask for help because your suffering fills up your headspace. When someone you know is suffering from a traumatic experience or significant loss, here are some ways you can help them.

Reach out to them

Whether you call them on the phone, send them a text, or connect with them on social media, ensure that you reach out to offer your condolences and your assistance. Many times people suffer in silence without letting on to their immediate needs.

You might assume that a grieving parent will have the basic needs of childcare, meal prep, and help with household chores. But it may not be true. You also may not know whether they need immediate financial help. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their needs are.  

Take them out for lunch

A person suffering through loss who also has to shoulder the caregiving responsibilities of young children at home may need a bit of respite from their everyday lives. Plan a day when the two of you can meet without the children so that you can have an opportunity to talk about the loss. A grieving person needs the chance to express their feelings and share their story to process their grief and move toward healing. 

Buy them a gift 

Carefully selected gifts for the bereaved offer a way for you to express your condolences and show that you care about the person who’s suffering through loss. Condolence gifts can include floral bouquets, gift baskets, and food. If you’re looking for a way to make a lasting impact, consider some of these more unique gift ideas:

  • Personalized wind chime
  • Memorial jewelry
  • Garden plaque

Help them organize

Most people dealing with loss find keeping up with financial and household responsibilities more challenging than ordinary. A grieving parent may need help paying the household bills and maintaining their finances in good order as they're dealing with their grief.

Experiencing brain fog after a significant loss is a real thing. Some people, with good measure, can't think straight after a traumatic experience and can benefit from someone else stepping in to sort out the most critical matters needing attention. 

A Parent’s Grief 

Grief doesn't take a back seat to everyday life, and parents must learn to weave their pain and suffering into their family life. Grieving parents have all of the same responsibilities they had before their loss that won't wait until after they've had time to process their feelings and emotions. These are the responsibilities that come with being a parent who oversees their children's welfare.

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