Tag Archive for: Dealing with Grief

Everything is Great With The Kids…

My family is drowning in grief this week. Three funerals to attend within the span of eight days.

One was a blessing. We celebrated the life of my dear Aunt Lois who passed at the age of 79. Having been in the hospital 32 times over the past three years, it was easy to let her go. She had lived her life to the fullest and had touched all of our lives. She needs to be at peace and my uncle, her caregiver who was by her side through everything, deserves time to rest. It has been a long journey.

And then there are the other two deaths–two high school students from the same school. Each committed suicide.

And I wonder how many times these parents have said ‘everything is great with the kids’.

From outward appearance, everything did seem to be on a positive trajectory. Both kids were good students, top athletes, had lots of friends, and a host of other good things that would make a parent say ‘everything is great’.

But it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids make terrible choices at times and the chemistry of the brain that results in someone making such a choice will most likely never be fully understood. Add the pressure to succeed and the possibility of fickle relationships especially during the teen years and it is more easy to accept that these terrible things do happen.

I have no idea what dragon either of these kids might have been facing. All I see is the tragedy of life ended so early. Friends and classmates who will forever remember the aftermath of their death. And the families who will try to put together the pieces for years to come.

And the parents will probably be asking themselves, “What could I have done differently?”

Everything with the kids obviously wasn’t great.

So what can we learn from these two deaths? What could I possibly write that would make a difference? 

For these two families, I could only say this: “I’m so very sorry for your loss.  Don’t blame yourself for the choice your child made. Grieve. And take your pain to a Heavenly Father who loves you and your child. Forgive your son. Forgiveness brings healing to you. Then use your pain to help others who are going through a similar loss. You know what it feels like and you might be the only person who truly understands. Even though you may never find closure this side of eternity, God sees your broken heart and He can use it for His glory if you let Him.”

To the rest of us parents, I’d say:

  1. Don’t assume that everything is great with the kids.  Appearance and reality can be totally different things.  Many of us hide our emotions when we get overwhelmed.
  2. Check in often to see how your kids are doing.  Ask meaningful questions–not superficial ones that can be answered with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or a grunt.
  3. Resolve conflict.  Unresolved conflict whether it ends in anger or is avoided all together leaves residual feelings of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  Conflict resolved well creates connection.
  4. Listen without judgment.  Empathize with you child’s situations and feelings.  Let them know that it is normal to feel what they are feeling.
  5. Make physical touch part of your relationship.  A ruffling of the hair, a hug, a pat on the back all show affection to a teen that says, “I like you and who you are becoming.  We’re on the same team.”
  6. Acknowledge the little things even if it is something they are supposed to do.  “I so appreciate you being consistent with taking out the trash.  I know I can always count on you.”  
  7. Have lots of one-on-one time to talk.  Ice cream, after school snack, long distance car time all can create an atmosphere of sharing our dreams and fears if we are willing to take the time.
  8. Talk about suicide, what is going on with friends, their struggles at school, and especially how they ‘feel’ in the difficult periods of life.
  9. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you feel something is inappropriate for your teen.  Having to deal with disappointment in the little things helps them learn to deal with the bigger struggles in life.
  10. Teach them to look at life situations with hope.  Let them know that the pain in the moment won’t last forever.  It is something to work through, grieve, and become a survivor.
  11. Walk with them through the difficulties.  When things are tough be available.  Coach them on how to look at the situation differently to find peace.
  12. Share the love of God with them teaching them how precious life is and how God loves them so much that He was willing to die so that they might live.

Death can come in many forms for our teens.  It can be the suicide of a friend, a loss of a relationship or friendship, a disbelief that someone could do something that hurt them deeply, or even the loss of something they hoped to achieve.  In each of these situations, our kids need to grieve.  We need to be there to walk beside them and help them process.  While we can’t make it better–we can be there to give them hope.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed  

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Dare you to give your kids hope, connection, and a hug this week.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Grieving Our Children’s Choices

As I continue to grieve the loss of my daughter, I’m noticing that I’m choosing to slow life down a bit.  I’m assuming that part of it is that others are giving me space and they understand on some level the complexity of the emotional turmoil that I’m in at the moment. When I feel overwhelmed, or sad, or anxious, or find tears welling up within me, I find myself analyzing the feeling to better understand what is going on deep inside.  I find that my capacity to deal with extraneous frustrations is limited so I selectively pick my next steps knowing what I can handle.

Thinking about the grieving process makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better served as parents to do the same thing.  After all, not many kids turn out exactly the way we think they should.

What I’ve come to realize is that there are a lot of moms who need to grieve.  Moms who need to grieve what they thought they could have with their kids.

Many have kids that are disrespectful, kids that are making wrong choices, kids who choose not to listen to reason, and kids who are in jail or doing drugs or having sex or — whatever is on your list.  But whatever the expectation in which your child is falling short, as a parent you need to grieve it and move forward in your parenting.

Grief is a process of letting go — letting go of what we had hoped for and accepting what is true.  And I’ll admit that it is hard.

Too many times as parents rather than letting go we choose denial.  Somehow we think that we can fix whatever we think is broken with our child.  We nag, we coerce, we try to reason, and we get emotional.  Acceptance is sometimes a difficult but necessary path to walk if we want a relationship with our child that isn’t filled with a sense of distance fortified with impenetrable walls.

Acceptance doesn’t mean there isn’t pain for you as a parent, but it releases your child to choose their own path.

So how do you grieve the things you’ve hoped for with your child?  How can you turn your frustration into a relationship where you are willing to endure their choices and love them in spite of their actions?

  1. Share your situation with someone safe.  A dear friend, a counselor, or even someone who has walked a similar path with their kids can do wonders for lightening the burden you carry.  Just talking about it will lessen the hold the situation has over you.
  2. Express your feelings.  Sadness, guilt, despair, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, longing, anger, and frustration will overwhelm you at times.  Don’t be afraid to feel.  Let others know what you are experiencing at least in the sense of “I’m going through a tough time right now.” It will normalize the feeling.  I’m finding that when friends text me to check in, I let them know what I’m feeling in the moment and ask them to pray.
  3. Let the tears flow.  Crying helps you heal.  Whether it is with a friend, your spouse, or alone, tears will bring relief.
  4. Let others know your need.  Each of us deals with grief in different ways.  I am finding myself needing time alone and at other times I need to be with people.  I’ve asked friends to go to the store with me, meet me for coffee, and to check in by text.  When someone offers a meal, I accept.  I’m finding that grief zaps my energy, so I’m giving myself permission to accept help from others or decline if I can’t handle what they offer.
  5. Sleep, eat, and do as much of your normal routine as possible.  I’m finding that grief is such an emotional process that I have to be selective with what I can do.  Focus on the basics and do only one thing at a time–but do something.  Don’t totally disengage from the rest of the world.
  6. This is a time to be selfish.  This is something I learned from a very wise pastor.  Grieving needs to be on your terms not what others want to do for you.  The day after my daughters death, friends wanted to be with me, to hug me, to do things for me.  While I appreciated their desire to be there, what I needed was just the opposite.  I needed time to contemplate, rest, and just be with my family.  My desire in the moment was to be mom for my other kids.
  7. Spend time with God.  In the midst of my current circumstances sometimes I feel like my prayers are disjointed.  Sometimes I just ask Him to give my daughter a hug or I write in my journal letting God know that I accept that He is God in my current situation.  I’ve been reading about peace in the midst of difficulty.  Coming to grips with the fact that He is in control takes hard work.  Acceptance is part of the process.
  8. Grow through your experience.  God has given you this trial to bring about incredible transformation in you.  Through your loss of the ideal for your child, you will gain wisdom in learning to overcome and survive.  Once you reach this point you will be better able to love your child unconditionally in spite of their choices.

As I’m writing this, it has occurred to me that this is not the first time I’ve gone through the grieving process with my daughter.  She was that challenging child where I found myself grieving over and over again at various stages of her life.  At some point in my parenting, I chose not to try to change her any more.  The nagging, the coercion, and the getting emotional stopped.  I would still try to reason with her, but when she disagreed I said something like “it makes me sad that these are the choice you’ve decided to make; however, I love you and I accept that they are your choices.” Once I had grieved and accepted that I was not in control, I reached a point where I was able to truly love her unconditionally.  I accepted her for who she was and fully entrusted her to God.

As parents we sometimes need to let go of our expectations for our kids.  We need to grieve our idealistic hopes and dreams so that we can better love these kids that God has given us on loan.  After all, He created them and He has a plan for their lives.

Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  

Isaiah 40:31

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

Do we trust Him with His story?

Praying you can…

“Let go…and Let God”,

 Our Small Group Leader’s Guide for With All Due Respect is now available. Want to help moms develop a deeper relationship with God as they create more fulfilling relationships with their teens and tweens?  With All Due Respect was bathed in tears as God walked me through a powerful life-changing process that impacted my relationship with my daughter.  Because of what God taught me through parenting her, other moms can now grow closer to Him as they work through the devotional Dares from this book.  What is more, if you choose to do the book in a group you’ll have opportunity to develop deep connecting relationships with other women who are also on the parenting journey.