Dealing With Loss
The first step is to "acknowledge that it happened and that it sucks"
Photo courtesy of Tom Gowanlock/Shutterstock.com
Loss is an inevitable part of life. Some losses are small and generally easier to recover from. They don’t linger with us for too long. But sometimes the losses are big, and they hurt, and they attach themselves to us with deep claws and weigh us down, often making it difficult to function.
We recently had one of the big ones, one with claws and weight. We unexpectedly lost a family member. It’s the first time we have been through this as a family and navigating through it opened the door to a lot of conversations and a lot of questions we haven’t had to answer before.
Of course, it is natural for children to be curious. They have no point of reference for this sort of loss. We did our best to openly and honestly answer any questions that were asked. Ultimately, we want our son to know he can ask us anything and that we will always do our best to tell him the truth. As a parent, I believe part of the overarching responsibility it to help our children learn to navigate through loss. It’s not easy, especially the big losses.
For us, the first step is to acknowledge that it happened and that it sucks. No one likes to feel loss, whether it be at checkers or something far more substantial. You get to be mad about it, and sad about it, and any other thing you feel about it. You are allowed to feel whatever way you feel.
You’re also allowed to sit in those feelings for a while. I refer to it as the “wallow.” Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to feel it. It’s normal and healthy, as long as you move through it and don’t get stuck there. Getting stuck can cause lots of other problems.
Talking about it helps. We encourage our son to talk to us whenever he wants to. We try to consciously stop and be present in those moments. Life can sometimes feel overwhelming and it helps when you have people around you who understand and care. It’s important for kids to know they are supported and other people feel the same things they feel. We don’t hide our sadness or our pain from him. It’s healthy for him to see that we are struggling too.
The truth is, life doesn’t always go as you plan. It’s going to knock you around sometimes. It’s going to hurt and that is normal. The cool thing is, we get to choose how we respond when it happens. We get to choose to get back up and begin again and we don’t have to do it alone.