Child Loss · Grief · Parenting · Sibling Loss

Grieving with Children

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I would bet my life savings on the fact that there is not one parenting book that has a chapter dedicated to how to love your children through the loss of a sibling.

It’s not natural. So it’s not something that anyone naturally chooses to prepare for or read up on when they prepare themselves for the holy task of bringing a child into this world

When we suddenly found ourselves in the role of parents whose children have tragically lost a sibling, we made a few promises to them. We said things like this, and I’ll quote their father:

“You will wrestle with questions over your brothers passing that you may never get answers for in this life, but know this I will wrestle with you.”

“Your Dad sees and cares about your broken heart. I am with you, son.”

“This Papa has your back, baby girl.”

“I will carry you through this my precious boy.”

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We sat with them and told them they were never to feel alone in grief. We told them that as a family, we were choosing to grieve together and to grieve openly, that no one ever had to hide their tears. We told them that even in our own sadness as parents, we would always be available, never unapproachable.

We’ve learned to recognize that some behaviors are markers for grief that hasn’t found its way out in words.

We’re learning to slow down and listen.

We don’t have it all together, but we’re doing the best we can. After all, there is no book. And even if there was, it wasn’t written for my family or for my kids.

And grief has a way of being unique and unboxed.

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So today when I was driving in the van with my three youngest, talking about a school-mate of Emma and Aiden’s who had passed away, we also started talking about our own sadness.

As the conversation was near the end, these are the wise words I heard in the back seat:

“Sometimes when you cry it comes out of your eyes, but sometimes when you cry it just stays in your soul.” -Elia Jane Loux (almost 8)

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So as we carry on, sometimes holding our tears in our soul, and sometimes allowing them to pour down our face, we wrap each other up and hold on tight.

My children, thank God, are not afraid to see their mother or father crying. They’ve learned that it is as natural as breathing. They don’t go away quietly and hide.

They’ve been welcomed in. More than not, if the kids see me cry, they come to me and wrap their arms around me and begin to share their own hearts too.

It has shown them that I love and I feel and that they are welcome into my heart.

It has also taught them, that when they drop to the floor without warning and start crying, or when they start acting out because those darn tears are stuck in their soul, that we will sweep in and gather them up and hold them tight.

I promised my children they would not feel alone.

I pray with all of my heart that one day they will look back and feel that I kept my word.

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24 thoughts on “Grieving with Children

  1. As a now grown up who lost her older sister some 31 years ago, thank you. Your children are so very fortunate to walk through this grief with you. My parents couldn’t cope and withdrew. I can only imagine how my life and relationships would be now if my parents could have reacted like you. I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for writing this.

  2. As an adult, who lost a sibling at 16 this is beautiful. My mother withdrew then and prefers the past to the present in front of her. It changed the household and the relationships for ever. My brother and I are very close and that is the great blessing from this event.

  3. Oh Heather, I’m sorry for the pain that must have cause you. I’m glad you and your brother remain close and connected.

  4. Dear Tracie,
    What a beautiful, brave, loving post. I’m so sorry for your lost baby, but so moved with how you are helping your children through this. It will make all the difference in their lives. When my 4 year old sister died, I was 5, with an older sister and 9 month old baby brother. There was no service of any kind. My baby brother was sent to friends for 3 months. Dad became alcoholic. I never saw my mother cry. My parents did not mention Janie’s name or tell us the story ( she was ill for 2 years) until 40 years later when I – fortified by therapy- insisted. My mother was furious! But I got some answers. I became a psychologist, mother, now grandmother. But 65 years later, I still feel the loss deep in my soul.

  5. I still miss both my brothers and it is many years ago since they passed.
    My parents didn’t do well when my younger brother passed. They didn’t help me much. They just didn’t know how to help me.
    When my older brother passed, they did better and included me more in the dying and grief process.
    When my sister died, Mom slipped back in not including me as much.

  6. Thank you for your very wise and heartfelt words. I lost my son 21April~who has 5 children, 4 nieces and nephews~left his younger sister ….grandparents~aunts~uncles…..I feel your words~I appreciate your words and your faith. Knowing CJ is loving Jesus face to face brings peace.

  7. Wow. We lost our 3 year old almost a year ago. The grief journey has been the toughest thing I have ever done not only for me, but with the 3 older siblings ages 5,7, and 8. Our family dynamics have completely morphed into something I can’t recognize. Our grief therapy which is faith based has been instrumental in helping the children specifically.
    These words are perfect reminders. I am thankful you vocalized them. I am sorry our circumstances as parents who have lost bring about our “meeting”….God’s continued grace go with you on this journey.

  8. Oh, Cindy, so much loss. I’m so sorry. My heart reaches out to you with love and understanding.

  9. Oh Marilyn, I am weeping over your story. I’m so sorry for your little girl heart, and for the journey you have walked.

  10. I just read your article and I don’t want your life savings but I did want to let you know that there is actually a beautiful book written not too long ago which is incredibly powerful and still very relevant to grief today (I too am a loss mother and someone who is pursuing a medical degree in palliative care.) I am sure you have heard of her if not you should because I have gobbled up her books like dessert over the past 2 years. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a gorgeous book “On children and death” where she talks not only of children who are dying but also their siblings and the family. If you do not know she is one of the original founders of the Hospice movement and worked with thousands upon thousands of world wide children and families confronting loss and her tenderness and advocacy for the loss community and grief is palpable in her books, I strongly recommend it. Beautiful piece here. Thanks for sharing! In peace- Meg

  11. Tracie Loux:
    What a beautiful post wrapped in loss, sadness, ache and a wonderful lesson for all bereaved with children & grandchildren. The wisdom that spills from the souls of our young ones is profound. We are 6 months into our journey and have been finding our way to grieve as a family. We as grandparents are mourning the loss of our youngest son who leaves a young wife & 2 babies and older brother who was also his best friend with a family of his own. Our oldest grandchild was 4 years old when her uncle passed and her compassion, love and hugs bestowed on all of us have been so healing. Her Mom did take her to a “feelings doctor” to help her navigate the initial emotions. Allowing the children to grieve openly is so necessary for the entire family and your words define it so naturally. We flow as one through this process of grief. I am so sorry for your loss and so thankful that you are able to share so deeply.

  12. If I had Only known then what I do now…this is a beautiful article. Blessings to you whole family.

  13. Diane, I’m sorry for the incredible loss your family has experienced. My heartfelt love sent to you all.

  14. Yes, I have heard of her and have read much of her work. Thank you for your kind words.

  15. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. In my case, I lost my 30 year old daughter 4 years ago in a murder/suicide by her husband. My grandson did not have siblings, but I found the part where you said you learned how to recognize the behaviors that were markers for words that can’t find their way out. He was 6 when he lost his Mom and Dad. He is now 10 and lives in the same town where his parents lived being raised by my son I don’t think he is encouraged to talk about his Mom and Dad. People think children are resilient, that they will forget. I don’t believe that is true. Thank you for your story. It encourages me more to always be a soft place for my grandson to fall.

  16. Oh Sandy, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m grateful that you’re grandson has a safe place in you.

  17. I lost my 14 year old son in 1996. I’m really not sure how my, then 17 year old, daughter survived. I couldn’t help me, let alone her. She has grown into an amazing mom herself and her 2 year old son thinks that he knows his Uncle Michael. I wish I could have a do-over for the way that I didn’t help her as I should have. I’m very fortunate that she handled it all so well. Hindsight is always 20/20! Much sympathy and love to your family…..

  18. Grace to you, Paula. I’m guessing she was secure in your love and that you are probably being harder on yourself than needed. Trust me there are days I feel like I’m failing too. But I’m here and I love them all.

  19. Thanks for sharing the inner thoughts of your beautiful soul and the love in your children’s hearts.
    I can imagine how difficult it is but when you think about others it only shows how much love God has to give me if I can meet people like you and your husband.
    We are all a big family and membrrs of the same heart, if someone suffers the rest sufferes but if someone gives away love everyone can feel it too.
    Thanks.

  20. Thank you for sharing. I am struggling through this right now after losing my 22 year old son in an auto accident on June 14, 2015. Trying to help myself grieve and still be there for my 26 year old son and 18 year old twin girls is by far the most challenging task. Knowing that each child is grieving in a completely different way and trying to identify their needs on an individual basis. Keeping my foundation of faith while constantly questioning “why Jaycob”. My Jaycob was the most giving, tender hearted young man. He touched so many lives and I know that he could have done so much more if given just a little more time. I am an registered nurse and have spent the last four years of my career in Hospice. I’m surrounded by death and grieving on a daily basis so I know the “book and theoretical” aspects of grieving, but to experience it first hand is drastically different. Not to say my pain is worse than anyone else’s, but it feels that way. I try to find strength in God.

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