PARENTING IN WIDOWHOOD
As a parent, you have to help your children navigate their grief, but at the same time, you may also notice yourself experiencing a special type of grief around your children's loss.
When you experience loss of spouse, you don't just go through the "stages of grief" and then move on with your life. Instead, grief becomes a way of life. Although the initial shock may fade, you end up living with grief throughout every day of your life, and in particular, you may experience a lot of grief as you watch your child or children grow up.
For most parents, their children's milestones are just a time of joy and happiness. When they see their child learn to ride a bike, get their driver's license, or go to college, most parents are filled with happiness, even if they have a slightly bittersweet feeling about their children getting older. For a widowed parent, this experience is a lot different.
You may notice that for every milestone you experience with your child that you also keenly feel the loss of your spouse. You may feel sad that your spouse isn't there, sad that your child is missing a parent, and upset that you lost the only other person who loves your children like you do.
If you were a pregnant widow or if you lost your spouse in childbirth, these feelings may be even stronger. You have to watch your child learn to roll over, walk, and say their first word without their other parent around, and you have to suffer through knowing that your child never got to meet their parent.
If you are a widowed parent or a pregnant widow, give yourself grace. Realize that learning to live in a place where joy will almost always walk hand in hand with sorrow is difficult. However, it's also important to remember to give your child room to grieve.
Babies and toddlers grieve a lot differently than teens and adults. They tend to spend less time in disbelief and often incorporate the loss into their reality a lot more quickly than most adults. In some cases, their grief may come up a long time after their death. If this happens with your child, be aware that it is normal. For instance, if you experience a lot of intense grief in the first year or so after the loss, your child may put their grief on the shelf, and it may become more intense in the second or third years or later in their life. Don't be afraid to talk with your child about the loss and help them find resources to help them.