Losing a spouse is one of the most devastating losses a person can experience. They’re your best friend, the parent of your children, and now you’re lost and trying to cope with their death while making sure your children are okay. It’s easy to forget to put your children first following the death of a spouse.
How you put your children first after the death of a spouse
It may feel impossible to even help your kids move forward when you are beside yourself with grief. Although this is one of the biggest tests and most difficult periods your family will face, you can come together and help one another heal.
Be Honest About the Loss
Even children in preschool can understand the basic concept of death. You shouldn’t hide the fact that their parent is no longer here. Keep things age-appropriate, and don’t feel obligated to go too into detail. Be willing to answer questions, and understand that this may also be the first time your children are learning about death at all. It’s a scary, confusing period, and it’s okay for them to cry and for you to cry, too.
Accept your emotions; if your children ask why you’re crying, tell them. “I’m very sad and I’m going to miss mommy or daddy very much, but that’s okay. It’s okay to cry.”
The way you cope with this loss will greatly impact how your child learns to handle and respond to grief throughout life. Older children may want to put up a brave front for you, and this is okay. Don’t force them to react in a way they aren’t ready to, but encourage them to express how they’re feeling.
Be Present and Forgiving
Children and adolescents cope with loss differently. You may notice it affects your children’s obedience and grades following the loss. A teenager may begin taking more risks, even dangerous ones. An elementary schooler who was once lively and cheerful could become sullen and reserved.
After a loss, it’s common to be distant. You’re caught up in your own grief and dealing with life decisions. Maybe you’re working with a wrongful death attorney or preoccupied with funeral planning. Whatever the case, make sure you plan these things around your family and not instead of them.
Pay close attention to your kids’ behavior, and try to keep things as normal as possible. You shouldn’t act like everything is okay and your partner never died; things are going to be different, but that’s okay. Kids will need a lot of structure and patience during this time as they adjust to life without one of their parents around.
Consider a Therapist
Just because your children aren’t seemingly affected by your spouse’s death doesn’t mean they’re okay. Some kids simply may not know how to process what they’re going through, and it can help for everyone in the household to speak with a professional counselor.
Therapists are trained to help people overcome loss and work through their grief in healthy ways; a child psychologist or family therapist may be the best way to help you and your children come to terms with the loss in your own ways.
Author bio: Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty.