Managing grief when you have other children to attend to

We recognize that we need time to heal physically and emotionally, but if there are other children that we still have to attend to, the day to day of working through grief can feel overwhelming, can’t it?!

After losing babies I held my children in a new light – I took them less for granted and treasured their lives even more, but I also found myself struggling to take care of them properly.  I was more irritable, felt frustrated and foggy with the neediness of my children and totally overwhelmed by any discipline that needed to happen.  More frequently than I wished what came out of my mouth was an angry bark rather than consistent consequences and patient explanations when they were not behaving right.  Of course, they also could pick up on my lack of engagement with life and them and that just made them increasingly irritable and frustrated too, which they then turned on one another.

I homeschooled my children and so for a few weeks while I was unable to do much his also left a big gap of inconsistency and time that needed to be filled.  I seriously looked at putting them in school because I knew that no one – not me or them – was getting their needs met in that time but it was too much of a decision to make with everything else going on too. (I have since, a year after the last lost decided to put them into school and we are very happy with that decision for now!)

These were some of the things that helped me to keep going, one step in front of the other:

1. Know that is it just a season so let some things go.

I have high expectations and I am usually a very motivated person, so cutting things out (like half of my children’s daily homeschooling!) felt like defeat, but I had to look at things in a different way – I needed to see whatever we could get done as victory, even if I was exhausted after just reading one chapter of a book.  Although I don’t like my children using more than a small quota of screen time a day, I had to recognize that there are good educational materials out there which could be used to temporarily bridge the gap.

2. Ask for help.

I have three boys so one of their daily NEEDS is physical exercise.  My sofa and soul will know it if they don’t get it.  Going to the park daily or taking them out was not something I always could do in my recovery phase, but it was something I could ask other people to help me with.  Getting the boys out of the house for an hour a day at least also meant I had a bit more emotional space too.

Child playing with large lego blocks or duplo with only hand visible

3. Just connect.

Seeing their mummy upset and disconnected affects the children too. They would often come and ask me if I was okay, give me a hug and tell me they loved me.  ‘How you feeling today, Mummy?’ I answered them honestly and also tried to ask them how they were feeling.  I shared with them that the overwhelming nature of these feelings would not be forever and that we needed to give each time and extra grace.  I tried to reassure them that although I was struggling I still loved them and wanted them around, but that I couldn’t do all the things I would normally say ‘yes’ to. I did try and take time to tuck them into bed, to read quick stories (we normally read for up to an hour a day), or to watch youtube videos about cute animals together!

Although I didn’t share all the details of what was overwhelming or upsetting me, I was open with the emotions I was feeling and why that was limiting me. I did cry in front of my children at times and tell them when I was struggling. Many people have commented on how my children seem to be very aware of their own emotions and I believe that is because we have modeled identifying our emotions and also trying to choose the right thing even if we don’t feel like it.

colored pencils

4. Plan small special things to do with each child each week. 

I know, planning is overwhelming but even a small thing each day can help settle children’s hearts.  Here is a list of some things you could do to get you started (not all things will apply to children of all ages, but I have tried to list a variety of things which can be applied to different ages):

1) Draw a combined drawing.  Take turns to draw something on the page and see what emerges.

2) Have a garden or living room picnic and read a book or talk together.

3) Take a short walk together.  Walking is a healing activity and boys in particular find it easier to talk when they are not sitting face to face.

4) Make cookies together.

5) Take a moment to hug before the day starts.

6) Email, text, or send secret written messages to one another to affirm the relationship and maybe help process some of what your child is feeling.

7) Plant seeds together

8) Choose a film you enjoyed from your childhood and watch it together.

9) Build legos together (who can build a bridge to hold the most cars / build your dream house etc.)

What things have you enjoyed doing with your children in the past? Can you do any of these things (or a modified version) in this season? 

Don’t forget to also take time to look after your self in this season so that you can be strengthened emotionally to face the overwhelm of parenting other children. An investment in yourself is an investment also into your family. Click here or the banner below to get a free self-guide guide specifically tailored to pregnancy loss.

Self-care guide after miscarriage or stillbirth

You might also like to read: 

Why miscarriage and pregnancy loss makes you so tired

What you need to know about depression after pregnancy loss

Why pregnancy loss is so hard

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