The past two months have been crazy busy. Most of it has been good but some of it has been sad. Two weeks ago, my ex-husband’s grandmother passed away. She had been very ill for a long time. By the end she was in a lot of pain and was suffering greatly. For my son, Conner, this was a great loss. My grieving child had a lot to deal with and I did my best to comfort him.
The pain she was in often made her irritable and cranky. Two years ago, she had deeply hurt Conner’s feelings. Long story short, eventually, she apologized to my ex-husband and he told Conner. She was so remorseful for her behavior and I think maybe she was afraid that Conner hated her.
When we were told that she had very little time left we talked to Conner about it. Conner wanted to see his great-grandmother and tell her that he loves her. So the day came when his dad brought him to see her. He had prepared Conner as much as he could to see her because she was so thin and weak that she could barely even open her eyes.
Conner went to her and told her he loved her. I don’t know what else was said because I wasn’t there but my ex told me that about a minute after Conner left the room, Great-Grandmother stopped breathing. Conner was still there. He knew what was happening. She passed away and my son’s grieving began.
Adam handled it better. He knew his great-grandmother had been very sick and he understood that she was gone. While Conner chose not to attend the wake or the funeral, Adam chose to go to the wake. He wanted a chance to say goodbye. Both boys wrote her a beautiful goodbye letter and they were placed in her casket with her.
Watching Adam kneel beside her casket, I could see a slight apprehension on his face. I was prepared to console my oldest grieving child but he surprised us all. Everyone grieves in their own way. When I asked Adam if he needed to talk he simply said, “I know she’s in a better place and that I will see her again.” And with that, he was ready to leave.
Conner is a bit different. Death is really hard for him. He feels the sadness immediately and deeply. When he was only 3 1/2 and his Godfather died, his sensitive little soul felt it with a force like I’ve never seen on such a young child. Last year when my mother lost two of her cats one after another, Conner felt it. My grieving child cried over them for days.
So what is a parent to do when their child is in so much emotional pain? I don’t think there are any right or wrong answers for how we help our children deal with the loss of a loved one. As parents, our first instinct is to shield our children from all the bad in the world. What do you do though when one of the bad is a natural part of life?
Here are the three ways I comforted my grieving child:
- I let him feel his pain – A few days after Great-grandmother’s death, Conner and I watched Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Everything was great until Superman’s funeral. That scene is about 5 minutes long and my grieving child just let it all out in that moment. All I could do was hold my baby and let him cry into my arms. We sat like that through the rest of the movie. I simply held him.
- I gave him space – As soon as we got home he didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted to play Minecraft. I let him because I knew he needed something else to focus on. Every now and then he would stop playing and come cuddle with me but he needed that space to tune out and to process.
- Listened and answered questions honestly – This happened more when he was younger. When he had questions about death I answered them to the best of my ability. I was also as honest as I could be. Anyone who knows Conner knows that his questions can be very specific and sometimes out there. If I didn’t know the answer, I told him so.
These are the ways in which I helped my grieving child mourn his loss. I let him feel his sadness, ask his questions, and gave him the space he needed to process everything. He’s doing better this week but the road to healing will take time.
How do you help your child deal with loss? Feel free to leave a comment below
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