Five Things I Tell My Child As I Walk Her Through Grief
Over the last decade of infertility, I have received many “words of encouragement” that don’t actually encourage. Well-intending people, unfortunately, fall short because they just don’t know what to say and it backfires. After experiencing this for so long, you learn what is helpful to say, and what isn’t.
After our miscarriage in August 2017, we’ve had to walk our daughter through her own grief over the loss of the sibling she wanted to badly. In the midst of that grief, I’ve been very intentional about saying things that will help her process her sadness and feel validated.
- “Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to not be okay right now.” I want my daughter to know that it’s completely normal to feel sad over the loss of her sibling. Sometimes we’re just not okay. I want her to know that even though we do have a wonderful life and are blessed, that in the midst of everything that is good, sometimes we have sadness to process and it’s okay to not be happy at this moment.
- “There isn’t a timeline on your grief.” At some point in her life, she will be told that she should be over it by now. I’m doing damage control now and reminding her that there is no such thing as a timeline on grief and that we will recognize our loss for the rest of our lives, and that’s okay. Sometimes things will trigger our feelings unexpectedly, and it could continue another ten years from now. She isn’t expected to be “over it” by a certain time, and that’s okay. We don’t want our grief to dictate every facet of our lives, but it’s normal for it to spring up at any point.
- “You can talk to me about anything and everything.” Open communication with my daughter is so important to me. She’s on the cusp of turning eight years old, and I know that her desire to turn to us for everything may be short-lived as the teenage years approach. I’m not only keeping the line of communication open but reminding her that it’s always there. I’m never too busy to listen.
- “You are more than enough for us.” It’s very important that my daughter knows that if we never conceive again: she is enough for us. Yes, it makes us sad that someone is missing from the family, but I don’t want her to grow up feeling like she wasn’t enough for us, because the truth is she is all we need. There is a gray area between grieving over infertility and the baby we lost, and yet also being fulfilled as parents because she is our miracle child that we get to raise. I want her to always know that she is special and enough.
- Remember to be kind to others because you don’t know what they are going through. My child has been a victim to bullying this year, which is another story for another day, but not only does she struggle with processing loss (she lost her sibling and two beloved pets in the same year), but she is often treated “less than” by other girls her age. As much as our grief hurts, it’s become a learning tool for how to treat others with compassion, because we don’t know what they are dealing with, too. My daughter has always been very sensitive and a “feeler” for other people, but this experience has heightened it ten-fold and has taught her the importance of spreading kindness.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article because you’re struggling with how to support a child through grief, I’m so sorry. These are the things I tell my daughter when she confides in me how much she’s hurting, and they seem to help. Sometimes I don’t say anything. Sometimes I just hold her while she cries and listen to her speak, while silently praying words of peace and healing over her. Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen, and that’s okay, too.
Photo by: Samantha C. Photography