How Grieving Can Change When You Are a Parent

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Last spring, Julie wrote a great post on helping kids deal with grief after they experience the loss of a loved one or a family pet. In the last five years since I had my two boys, I have experienced the deaths of my paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, and father. All of them were hard to deal with, but dealing with them while still being a mom to young kids is a challenge of its own. I am the type of person who likes to fully experience my feelings—even the sad ones. I like to feel.  

When my grandfather died, it was expected. He was 86 years old and had been sick for a while. He was in a nursing home and slowly deteriorated until it was his time to go. It was almost peaceful when he passed since our whole family was in the room with him, and we could support one another. What was unexpected was the premature delivery of my first son a few hours after that! I wasn’t due for another three and a half weeks, but my son decided to come into this world just 9 hours after my grandfather passed away. And they look a lot alike. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

The birth of a new baby helped to ease the pain for me as a grieving granddaughter. I was so happy to become a mother that I could forget about how sad I was for a while. When I did think about my grandfather, it was happy thoughts. It was his time to leave this world and my son’s time to come into this world.  

Nonnie and Benjamin 1 lighterJust a few months later, my grandmother started to decline rapidly. I was 31 weeks pregnant with my second son when she passed away. Thankfully I did NOT have him a few hours later! But, when he came into the world just seven weeks later, it again helped me move through my grief and see the strong connection between life and death. I still “talk” to my grandmother all the time in my head. I ask her for help in my weakest moments as a mom. She had seven (7!) kids of her own, after all. The idea that she can somehow still connect with me and relate to me as a mom is helpful to me. It helps me feel connected and less sad that she isn’t here to experience my kids in person.  

The death of my father was tough. It was a shock. Something that I never expected to come and something I thought that I had dealt with a long time ago. You see, he left when I was just 11 years old. He popped in and out of my life until my high school graduation. Then I never saw him again. In a way, I thought that I had dealt with his “death” way before it happened. But, when he died and I got the news, I felt grief like I had never experienced it before.

Being a mom (my kids were 2 ½ and five months at the time) wasn’t helpful. It made me sadder since he never got to know his grandchildren. It made me think of all the things that I would have tried to change. It made me think of all of how I deliberately parent differently from him. Grief is a beast. It attacks out of nowhere and when you least expect it. Over time, it has been my experience that it fades, but the scar may never truly disappear. Working through grief while also parenting kids allows you to feel all of the different parts of grief. You are vulnerable and open. You get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Kind of like parenting, right?!

What has your experience been? Please share in the comments below.

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Abby is a full time middle school teacher and mom. She was born and raised in Fairfield County and despite a few attempts at moving out west to Colorado, she has always ended up back here in the tri-state area. She met her husband, Chris, in college, and they were married in 2008 in Norwalk. They welcomed their first son, Ben, in 2010 and their second son, Tommy, in 2012. They recently just bought their forever home in Wilton and brought home a Bernese Mountain dog puppy, Nora, to add to the fun. Abby spends her weekdays working and parenting her two young boys and her weekends trying to relax with family and friends. She enjoys running, podcasts, nice dinners out with her husband or friends and the quiet hour alone with her coffee each morning before everyone else wakes up.

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