Raising Grieving Children

Raising children who grieve might be the hardest thing ever.

I thought telling my 3 year old son back in February of 2010 that his Daddy died was the worst thing I ever had to do. That his “heart stopped beating. that although the doctors tried very hard to save him and usually doctors DO save people, his father had died. His Dad’s heart stopped beating.”

Yes, those words, while sitting on my lap a cold February day. The boy just turned three years old. His Daddy was his best friend.

Six months later, when his beautiful baby brother was born, and that precious little three and half year old baby boy came into the hospital room so eager to meet his new baby brother, he walked right over to him. Bent down, and whispered in his ear: “My Daddy died.”

That’s right, only hours in this world, and Anthony heard it first from his “Big brother”. My response was “Jayce it was his Daddy too.” Jayce then said, “Our Daddy died”.

My Dad had to leave the hospital room. That was hard. Hearing my tiny little boy say that was hard. But it was empowering for 3 year old Jayce. He let out a secret. He told his new little baby brother, they had lost their Daddy. “Their Daddy had died.” They had a bond. A “shared experience of loss”.

I was 35 years old that day.

I understood death.

I loved my children.

For seven and a half years, I have raised these children the best that I knew how.
I did the best that I could in that time.

Today I was told a lot of things by an expert. An expert who did not raise grieving children.

With tears rolling down my face, I type, raising children who grieve their father, is very hard stuff.


Instead of judging, do something.

Just do something.

Instead of labeling, a kid with anxiety. Or whatever you think that kid needs to be branded.

Meet that child where he is today.
HUG his parent.

‘Cause lord knows she has tried with every ounce of her being…..to be there.

She has tried to be his superhero.

Maybe she succeeded and kept it all together most days.

Maybe she screwed up as we all do some days.

But give a care.

Go visit that mom.

Go play with her kids.

Feed her kids. Clothe her kids.

Hearing your child say: “I wish I got to meet Dad Jon.” or “Where is my picture with my father holding me?” “I wish I could die, so I don’t have to watch my parents die, because it’s too much to handle” while getting in his pajamas. Or “I wish I could go to Heaven see Dad and then come back”. Those big ideas that come out of my son’s mouths at any given moment take my healed heart and rip it out of my chest and twist the hell out of it. How can it not?

Yes, death is a part of life.

Young loss is a horrible part of life.

Children knowing this young loss is tragic.

Raising babies who grieve is like running a marathon when you have not trained. Running that marathon when a quarter of the way in, you break your ankle. But you can’t stop running, because there’s an attack dog behind you. If you stop for water, you might get bit. If you tie your laces, you might not get back up. You have to run. You have to get to the finish line.

Healing your yourself in your own time, is like crossing that finish line. Helping your children grow and learn and grieve is crossing that finish line.

Thanks for listening.

Now go care. Judge less, spread light, give hope. You may just pull up the shades on a day that seemed pretty dark.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shawna

    Oh Julie! You speak the words rolling around constantly in my head. You brake my heart with the truth in your words. Your story of loss is like looking in a mirror at mine. You are an inspiration. You are amazing. Instead of crumbling you have helped SO MANY!

  2. Jennifer Cohn

    ? Hugs honey. You are good enough and have the strength of a pack of mama rhinos.

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