Children grieve differently

December 2nd, 2011 § 4 comments

I’m working on a new piece about grief during the holiday season, but really want to re-share this short post for those who missed it. I actually re-read it from time to time to remind myself of a valuable insight I had with two of our three children. This was originally written two days after their grandmother was killed in a car crash in 2009.


Children are different.
From adults.
From each other.

I had to give two of my children different directives this morning:
One I told, “It’s okay to be sad.”
One I told, “It’s okay to be happy.”

I needed to tell my 7 year-old son that it was okay to cry, to be sad, to miss his grandmother.
I miss her too.
And it’s okay to let your emotions show.
It doesn’t make you a sissy or a wimp.
What it does make you is a loving grandson.
A grieving boy.
A bereaved family member.

But my ten year-old daughter needed a different kind of permission slip today.
I sensed she needed permission to smile.
To laugh.
To be happy.
I needed to tell her that it was okay to forget for a moment.
Or two.
To forget for a few moments that Grandma died.
It’s okay to still enjoy life.
The life we have.
Grandma would want that.
I told her that Grandma loved her so much.
And was so proud of the person that she is.
I reminded her how Grandma’s last phone call here last Sunday was specifically to tell Paige how proud she was of her for walking in a breast cancer fundraiser with me.
It’s okay to still feel happiness.
And joy.
It’s okay to let that break through the sadness.

Children are different.
But they take their cues from us.
I know my children.
I know that this morning what they needed from me was a sign that it was okay for them to feel a range of emotions.
It’s healthy.
Because what we are living right now is tragic.
And confusing.
And sad.
And infuriating.

If it is all of those things for me,
It can only be all of those things and more
To my children.

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§ 4 Responses to Children grieve differently"

  • scott faithfull says:

    thank you for sharing this. i felt every word of it and it’s something i’ve wanted someone to say to me for a long time. that is is okay. i lost my grandmother 7 years ago and it wasn’t until recently that i was able to let go of my grief and allow myself to be happy while looking back on my life with her and all the wonderful things we shared.

  • Becky Sain says:

    Reading this at work and had to stop. It’s all so real… for adults too, I think. Hugs.

  • joannefirth says:

    I can certainly see why you refer back to this piece. I am also looking forward to what you are writing on grief during the holidays. I think there is also grief on the birthdays and anniversaries as well. I’ve never thought before how differently children grieve. When you have more than one child during a tragic event, it is so important to do what you did and validate their emotions individually. Happy or sad or angry. Grief is unique to everyone. It comes and goes and varies by degrees. Having a house full of adults and children grieving together is the most difficult situation a family could have, in my opinion. I’m sure your amazing insight on grief helped your children so much. Very lucky children indeed.

  • Miguel says:

    I’m amazed that at a time when you were probably feeling much sadness yourself that you could not only be so perceptive to your children’s feelings and nurture them appropriately but also that you were able to write this profound post.

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