When I was young I was aware of how absolutely blessed I was when it came to my grandparents. Although my grandparents had all divorced and remarried while my parents were younger, I never felt stuck in the middle of any disputes. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. For the most part I had four pairs of distinctive and vibrant grandparents who loved me. To further that, I had two sets of absolutely amazing great- aunt and great-uncles. I also had two great-grandmothers, one who lived until I was sixteen and the other who survived to my nineteenth birthday. I was loved. I was blessed. And I knew it.
And I have been so sad as, one by one, all of my grandparents have passed since Tiny was born. She will never know the wonderfully vibrant people who shaped my life. I drove in last night from a whirlwind trip to attend my grandmother’s memorial service – the last grandparent I have to grieve.
I am exhausted after the whirlwind trip but I am glad I was able to make it. I can tell you, though, that the ebb and flow of emotions has yet to subside… and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing or that they will ever go away completely.
I’ve learned two things about grief as a parent that I did not really know before.
- You must make time to grieve. This is especially true if you have little ones around, because their needs don’t ever stop. Three years ago I lost three loved ones in the span of five weeks. I was writing a mid-term take-home when I got the first call and was ramping up to finish another semester of graduate school. Hubbin was traveling quite a bit for work and, in addition to taking care of Tiny (who was 19 months at the time) our derelict 20-something niece was living with us and stretching us thin. Our time and finances were maxed out and I did not even have the bandwidth to deal the losses on top of all that. But losses have a way of making themselves known. Although I thought I’d given myself time to grieve, I came to realize that the opposite was true shortly after receiving the recent news of my grandmother. It all came crashing down on me. So I made arrangements for someone else to pick up Tiny from preschool and, after dropping her off, spent an entire day just letting it wash over me while I drank wine, ate chocolate, and watched tear-jerker films. I allowed myself to wallow and intentionally created the time to fall apart. And it really helped. It didn’t wipe away all the grief… but it helped. Life will continue to happen, whether you make space for grief or not, but you will be doing yourself a kindness if you let yourself feel the grief for even the shortest of time.
- Don’t be afraid to let your kids see you grieve. While nineteen-month-old Tiny would not have understood the abstract concept of death, she really should have seen me have a human moment. I did not give myself the space for moments like that. As a preschooler, though, she has certainly been able to grasp that her mama was having a hard time. It gave me the opportunity to do two things. First, I was able to tell her that, although I love her hugs and kisses, she is not responsible for my feelings. Second, I talked to her about death. She had a few (albeit fairly abstract) memories of her great grandmother; explaining to her that we wouldn’t be seeing her again was difficult but important. I was also able to talk to her, in preschool language, that going to a memorial is an important ritual for saying goodbye – and Mama really needed to say goodbye. I feel that starting these conversations at an early age is just so important. Although it was a challenge to answer her almost-constant (and often repetitive questions) about death and grief and why we were making the trip, my patience in responding set us up for more mature and open conversations down the road.
So today I am simply reminding myself as I recover from a crazy-fast trip, that it’s okay to let the grief wash over me when those little waves come. The depth of my grief is a reminder of how much I loved those I’ve lost and, because of that, I know that my grief is a reflection of the fullness they brought to my life. And I am so thankful for that fullness.
I’ve not really used one specific oil during this season. I’ve been prone to whimsy with the oils I’ve diffused or used on my chakras points, but just to name a few… I’ve used Joy a few times when I was feeling particularly sad. I used Loyalty while traveling to help me focus. And I’ve used Christmas Spirit a few times because I have some really positive holiday memories of my grandmother and wanted to focus on those happy moments rather than my sadness. I think my flexibility has allowed me to be more in tune with what I need and the oils I have chosen in those moments have really helped.
I know that grief looks different for everyone and there are so many things that foster grief. Whether you are grieving a loss through death or the loss of a significant relationship (maybe a divorce or estrangement from a family member) or another kind of loss, I hope that you allow yourself the space you need to mourn and heal. In the mean time, here are some resources that I found helpful.
And there are a few posts about parenting through grief that really helped me:
- The Mother Co. – make sure you follow the link to the second post about talking to your kids about death
- Psychology Today
- She Knows
- A Modern Mom
- Huffington Post