This is a topic I wish I didn’t have to write about. It’s about loss, grieving and sadness as our beloved dog Skip died this week.
I’ve been dealing with my own grief, plus my 6 year old’s. Below are points on how we can help our children during difficult times. Plus, I’ve also included how to not make the mistake I made this morning!
Don’t be afraid of your child feeling sad
It can be really tempting to want to fix the situation – to cheer them up or distract them. But, as you know, crying is natural and normal. I can’t bring Skip back to life, no matter how much I want to, and no other dog can replace him. We’ll get another dog in time, but I want us to honour the uniqueness of Skip for now. So, yes, my 6 year old has been really sad and has cried lots.
Which brings me onto the next point (you’ve guessed it…!):
Listen to your child’s feelings and tears
We need to grieve, to mourn, to cry, to be sad. But we can’t fully heal without the loving presence of another person. We need their attention, their belief that we’re going to feel better soon and we need the space they can give us to cry. Tears heal.
The bigger the cry, the more that’s being released. So to have big, body-wrenching sobs is healing.
Allow your child to feel their sadness. After lots of hugs and time to cry with you, they will be able to think straight and feel happy again.
It’s OK to cry with your child
There can be the belief that it is too scary for our children to see us upset – that we need to be the calm, solid, stoic presence. I disagree. By us crying (to an age-appropriate degree) in front of our children, we are modelling the benefits of tears, and they get to see our authentic selves. I am not just Mummy, but Helena too. There’s a bond that comes from grieving together.
Get your own support
We need to have our own loving support with another adult where we can fully grieve without worrying about our children. The more we can cry and talk with a friend or partner, the more we are able to give our children the support they need during this difficult time.
Expect a tantrum about something completely unrelated (This is where I went wrong!)
Even though your child has cried a lot, there will probably be more feelings that need to come out – about the incident, or the ongoing void at home, or how distracted we are. So expect the irrational, the unreasonable and the infuriating!
For example, this morning Emily was not getting ready for school and was really whining and moping about. She rapidly became incredibly upset about me going to make breakfast and then refused to get dressed. I became utterly infuriated and we had a stand off. She screaming at the bottom of the stairs by the bedrooms, me shouting at the top of the stairs by the front door. Both of us were being unreasonable (even though in my head I was saying it was all her fault!!). It wasn’t pretty…..
It wasn’t until we were in the car driving to school that it dawned on me that we have had a very emotional 48 hours. So it was no wonder that, at some point, she would become irrational, unreasonable and highly emotional. The issue of getting dressed was an easier thing to become upset about than thinking about our beloved Skip. Plus my tolerance levels were low due to my own sadness so I wasn’t thinking straight myself.
Be kind to yourself
It’s important that we give ourselves the same compassion we want to give our child when they do something ‘wrong’. I regret getting so cross with Emily this morning, but I recognise that I have my own emotional needs and I can’t possibly get it ‘right’ all the time. So I’m having a gentle day to feel recharged so that I can be more present with her next time her behaviour goes off-track or she becomes upset.
I’d love to hear how you have helped your children through difficult times – please leave your comments below.