I hear you: this topic gives everyone a grimace and you might even want to skip over this post altogether. But since grief is very much a part of life, and parenting, I'm feeling the call to address it.
Last month, for the second time, I found myself leading my family through the loss of a loved one. During the chaos and confusion of death, just like birth, sometimes days become night and nights become days. Meals can be forgotten or unwanted and emotional outbursts seem to occur on an even more regular basis than regular large family life.
Far from being an "expert" , just like everyone else I found myself thrown upon a sea of chaos trying to catch a breath before the next wave threw me upside down and spun me around.
So how do we as parents navigate these turbulent times with a houseful of people depending on us to model something that vaguely resembles sanity?
Firstly please remember you cannot get this wrong! People will grieve in as many different ways as there are people to grieve.
As with all life adjustments one of the most helpful tips that I have found is to keep some kind of structure. If you usually have dinner together at 6 pm then if there's a way to keep doing that, do it. If someone isn't hungry, they can still come and sit at the table. If funds permit, take-away dinners can make this daily gathering more realistic for times when cooking is too much. If the expense is too much of a stretch, perhaps there could be a cooking rota, so everyone gets a break, and some freezer-to-oven meals ordered in.
If daily mealtime gatherings aren't a thing in your house what traditions do you keep? is it a familiar bedtime routine or something you watch/do together to relax?
What if you absolutely feel you cant do anything? Or one of your children feels that way? There will definitely be days and times like this. When one of my children is feeling upset or out of control I tend to have a lot more compassion for them than I do for myself. At this time we get an opportunity to offer self compassion too, and to allow ourselves space, time and whatever we need to process the emotions that are engulfing us whether that be copious amounts of chocolate, or walks in nature... or both at the same time.
Conversely when you do feel able to do things, stick to the basics; do a load of laundry or a weekly shop. This way we can avoid the looming overwhelm of the to do list, and that snowed-under feeling. Times of loss are also a perfect opportunity to model humility to our children. We have grown up thinking that we the parent(s) should be able to do EVERYTHING. But in reality if there are others offering to help, now is the time to accept it, delegate tasks that need doing and allow friends and family to take part in your household.
My final tip for grieving families is to follow your intuition. Is your new situation beckoning in a change? Are you happy with the way that you are living your life? Is your job fulfilling, are you close to the people you want to spend time with? When we lose a loved one we often look at their life path and question did they feel they had got what they wanted out of life? If so, what did they do right? How can we learn from those who have gone before us, and make good choices for ourselves and our own families?
For me personally I have come up against yet another realisation of who I want in my life and who I am happy to share my energy with... and who I do not. For our family, I feel a move is on the horizon. All of these experiences, I think, are to begin to knit together positive, healthy communities in which to raise our children in safety and love.