Managing grief is hard. As a widow with a young child, I know firsthand some of the difficulties that come with navigating grief and dealing with the loss of a loved one. I lost my husband to cancer when I was 35 and our son was almost two.
I watched our son go down the hall to the room my late husband slept in and look around, confused and not fully understanding that his daddy wasn’t coming back. I had to figure out how to help my son while dealing with my own grief and trying to navigate through life as a widow with a young child. And because grief, loss, and healing are a lifelong process, we are still on this journey.
First, therapy. Therapy. Therapy. I cannot stress the importance of seeking the help of a certified mental health professional. Yes, you have friends and family you can talk to. Yes, you have your faith. Yes, you have books on grief and loss. A therapist is still one of the best investments you can make for the mental and emotional health of you and your family.
A professional therapist can help identify and guide you in ways that others may not be able to. If you end up needing additional support (antidepressants, a psychologist, a social worker, etc.), they can assist with that as well. There are a variety of therapies available for individuals, couples, families, and for children as young as two.
Secondly, when managing grief and loss, learn to let people help you. This one is big, and it was especially hard for me. I was not used to allowing people to help me with anything, even during the 21 months my husband fought cancer while I was caring for our infant son. So when he died, I assumed I would continue on the way I always had, doing things myself.
People would offer to help with groceries, childcare, laundry, and more; I would politely decline. I knew their hearts were in the right place. But even as I was dealing with so much, I found it very difficult to accept help. Then one day, not long after my husband passed (and also shortly after I started therapy), a friend asked if she could do anything for me and I said, “Actually, it’d be great if you could…” And she was happy to help!
Since then, I’ve learned to allow the people that love me to help me. I’ve come to realize that they’re trying to show their love for me by helping. It helps me and them, because oftentimes the people we love feel helpless watching us deal with grief and are unsure of what to do to provide support.
Lastly, find a support group. Or two. Grief and loss are a part of life, because whether it’s a parent, spouse, sibling, child, grandparent, pet, or other family member that dies, we all have, or will one day, deal with death.
Knowing that there are other people dealing with the same pain and loss you are can serve as a reminder that you aren’t alone in how you’re feeling while managing grief. Leaning on others, sharing your story, and hearing the stories of others can be extremely helpful for learning to navigate through grief.
Today you can find a variety of grief support groups for moms, families, young children, and more. There are virtual and in-person support groups available to meet almost any need and schedule.
Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you’re experiencing while dealing with loss and know that your children may be experiencing some of the same emotions, too. Show yourself, and them, some grace. It sounds simple, but listen to your body. Rest when you need to. Remember to eat and stay hydrated. Those three things are key but so often get overlooked when we’re struggling.
Most importantly, take it one day at a time. And remember: grief is a journey that you don’t have to navigate alone.