Permissions slips: children grieve differently

December 15th, 2012 § 5 comments

I’m re-posting this piece today in light of the school shootings nearby in Newtown, Connecticut. I know there is a lot of material out there this weekend on children and grief, but I’d like to add mine as well. This post was originally written a few days after my mother-in-law, Barbara, was killed suddenly in a car crash in 2009. I think these observations apply now, too.

I will honor childhood today.


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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§ 5 Responses to Permissions slips: children grieve differently"

  • Susan says:

    Lisa, I am always so in awe of you and your writings. Of your many strengths your wisdom and passion as a parent surpass all. Thank you for posting.

  • Susan says:

    Your writing is so powerful. It is so clear that you are an incredible mother to your children. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

  • jennw says:

    you are so right as i watch the service in newtown.

  • Anonymous says:

    I needed to hear this today. Every time I feel happy, I pull myself back down to it. I didn’t even know any of the families (as far as I know). I’m just so devastated by it all anyway. Just overwhelmed. I have a 1st grader whose class is pretty much the same boy/girl ratio.. it’s just too much. Every time I go on Facebook, Twitter, or the news sites, it’s staring me in the face. I feel so helpless, and yet I want permission to live my life, to be with my family, to enjoy my daughter, and it’s so hard.

  • I needed this today. I am still overcome with it all. Every time I go on Twitter or Facebook or to any of the news sites… I want to enjoy my daughter, and my family, but I can’t because there is someone there reminding me of the children (and adults) who got “welcomed into heaven” on Friday. So sad. So powerless, and my own 1st grader doesn’t really know what happened and I don’t need her to have my nightmares.

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