parenting through grief

Expert / 1 January, 2024 / My Baba

Parenting Through Grief: Tips On How To Cope

Harriet Inglis is the Founder of the successful cult brand Spacemasks. A lover of home comforts and life’s little pick-me-ups, she has built the brand by adding relief and comfort with the warming eye masks that tackle migraines, anxiety and tension.

Another topic that has always been close to Harriet’s heart is one that is often left undiscussed but does affect us all. Grief. Having lost her parents at a very young age, she has reflected a lot on what grief means to each of us and how to smooth the process. With this in mind, Harriet launched the Little Book of Life Admin, which is a jotter for one’s death wishes. Created to help you organise the aftermath to perfection and make sure your nearest and dearest know exactly what’s what following your demise.

Parenting Through Grief

In light of Grief Awareness Month this December, she urges us to speak more to our children about the topic of death, as we will all be affected by parenting through grief at some stage. Here she shares tips on losing a grandparent and ways to keep the conversations flowing for a healthier and more empowering way to handle death in the family.

There are some conversations that are inevitable with children; the theory of gravity, how babies are made, various topics and queries around toilet humour and of course the most inevitable (and often the one we avoid the most!) – death.

Losing a parent is devastating at any time, I lost both of mine at an early age. But losing a parent, while parenting, can be challenging in totally unpredictable ways. As children love to talk, ask questions and evaluate with their little curious minds, more than we grown-ups ever do, then it also has the potential to be the most cathartic period of life of all.

The Topic Of Death

Whether your children’s Grandparents are having health problems, coming to a much older age in life or even when all is well – the topic of death, I believe, is something that we should confidently conquer and address before we are caught off guard. It is absolutely essential to discuss the topic of death when a grandparent is sick but also a very good idea to address death ‘head-on’ in families in preparation for losses amongst the family. Sensitively and age appropriately of course.

I would say if all is well in a family then when a child is around 9 or 10, and can process the information, it is a good idea to start being much more open about the topic of death.  Having experienced death at a young age myself, I truly believe that talking about people dying should be the norm and is essential for being able to regulate and grieve with more clarity around what has happened when it does. You don’t want to cause unnecessary anxiety – but having safe and healthy conversations, perhaps when a child mentions someone else’s grandparents being sick and dying, can really help make us all feel safer and more at ease with the concept of death. Having pets is also excellent preparation and can be a good way to communicate loss, if and when relevant.

Talking About a Loss

We often think our children and families know what we are thinking and sometimes we feel we have said enough. But ask anyone who has lost someone and they will tell you many people avoid the topic altogether and even find it difficult to even mention that they are sorry for your loss. We are paralysed by the topic and I truly believe this is from a lack of practice and confidence around something that we will all experience at some time or another. To address this in our own families is so important.

Losing a beloved Grandparent is pretty much inevitable, and when we do, we need to all have healthy tactics to deal with the emotions amongst the family and make sure there is a safe place for us all to grieve. So as a parent, after a loss, you could possibly bring up the topic more proactively even after the funeral is over and family life has resumed. Organise little dates with your children individually, something nice like tea and cake and have a good chat through everything you are both feeling. This will ensure children know that although everyone is sad, the topic isn’t taboo and off-limits. Keeping the conversation flowing is the healthiest approach for us all – whatever age.

The Little Book of Life Admin

The Little Book of Life Admin is a book I created for everyone.  It gets the admin side of things out of the way because, trust me, when death strikes, you do not want to be arguing about favourite flowers/hymns etc. But I also created the book as an outlet too, to get us all more comfortable around the topic.  For children in particular it can be a useful tool prior to death, when a Grandparent is very ill. There are a handful of blank spaces for notes throughout the book for anyone to add their own comments and thoughts, which children can freely write in.

For the loss of my own parents, the lead-up to the first few anniversaries are hard.  As my girls never met my parents, there is no big fanfare, but we have had to be very thoughtful to the fact that my emotions at that time need to be communicated and the dates are known so everyone can be sensitive. For children who have lost a Grandparent more recently, I think having mini traditions or marking the dates is a lovely idea to keep the conversations flowing – another reason to unbottle any feelings, questions or emotions for little ones. Again, keeping the conversations flowing, and creating lovely memories and moments is so important for family past and present.

Article written by Harriet Inglis author or Little Book of Life Admin.

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