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Parenting and grieving

Steve Lovegrove/PhotoExpress

Back to the money series soon.

Although the following suggestions focus on death and dying, any change to a family can cause grief: job loss, a move to a new community, or even a joyful event like a wedding or a birth (we often grieve the loss of our old life, even when we are excited for the new one).  I would love to hear from readers who have additional resources or ideas for dealing with any grieving process.

1) Your children will watch you to learn how to handle grief.  It is OK -- even desirable -- for you to show them that you are sad, or angry, or feeling regret.  If you hide your feelings, they may question the validity of their own.

2) You don't, however, have to be Superparent.  If you need time and space to process your own grief, take it.  Get a babysitter.  Make use of whatever bereavement leave your employer provides.  Your friends and family will want to help, but may not know what to offer.  Ask for what you need.

3) Your kids will probably have a lot of questions about death and dying.  Younger children will especially want  to know how it affects them.   Answer them honestly, but don't be afraid to say "I don't know."  Also, listen carefully to the questions they're asking, and try not to provide more information than your child is seeking.  Let them guide your discussion.  You can certainly include information about your family's spiritual beliefs, but it may be helpful to separate these discussions from the physical/biological questions your children may have.  Provide your kids with other safe, trusted adults who can answer questions when it gets to be too much for you.

4) It can be complicated to decide whether your children should attend memorial or funeral services.  Use your own best judgment.  Services can be very beneficial to children, but you should make sure they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

5) Your need to grieve will probably be with you longer than the mourning period our culture usually grants.  Fortunately, there are a lot of resources and support groups for grieving families.  Before you present any of these resources to your kids, check to be sure that it's compatible with your family's belief system.

-Allina provides this list of grief support groups for the Minneapolis area, or you can visit this related page to find a group by location or specific need.

-The Family Grief and Bereavement Examiner has an entire section on helping children cope with grief, as well as an incredibly complete list of web resources for grieving families.  In this article, she has some great suggestions for books that may help you address your children's concerns.

-There are unique causes of grieving for families with multiples that other families may not experience.  Twinless Twins provides support for multiples who have lost a sibling.  Kate of Sweet/Salty, whose infant son died while his twin survived, writes beautifully and heartbreakingly about life after loss.  Her site also links to other mothers who are mourning a child.


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