Grieving While Parenting
Written By: Jessica Eiseman, MS, LPC-S, NCC
Parenting is a
bitch, overwhelmingly difficult at times, hard. I feel like I am constantly learning new things within motherhood. I guess that is pretty normal since parenting doesn’t come with a manual. Most recently it’s learning to parent through grief.
A significant family member recently died unexpectedly. As a parent, heading to the hospital suddenly wasn’t so sudden because I couldn’t just go. I rushed from work to home first to pack a bag and dinner and entertainment (because who knows how long we will be there and keeping a toddler busy in a sterile, quiet environment is a feat within itself). Then to pick up said child because had I picked her up first it would have doubled the amount of time getting all of our things together. (No one really talks about this part of parenting either—how damn long it takes to do ANYTHING with your child in tow. Thank goodness for online pickup!)
On the drive to the hospital, on the inside I am devastated, scared, in shock. On the outside I am belting out “Let it Go” and “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Because, if your toddler demands you sing, then you sing. All the while I am feeling weirdly conflicted. It’s not “normal” when you feel these terrible, sad emotions to be singing songs. All the while having to identify things you possibly can’t for your child while driving. But when they ask “Mom, what’s that?”, you come up with a response. Period.
For the first time, I think I truly felt the power of utilizing what we try to teach in therapy. Separating ourselves from the pain enough that we can continue to move forward. While I still felt all of those terrible things, rightfully so, it was more difficult to feel them as intensely when I had to be in tune with other things. It also kept me very present, in the here and now, which also lessened my anxiety.
Of course I had to scour the internet to see. Could it be true that in some ways being a parent actually helps with grief? I came across this article: The Lessons of Parenting During Grief. And the writers biggest take away is, “One of the biggest gifts motherhood has given me is an improved ability to deal with hard times.” Wow. <insert mind-blown emoji>
I know what grief for me has looked like in the past. And it’s not pretty. I will spare you the chocolatey details. But now, while there is immense sadness, it’s not stopping me in my tracks. I have a little person who relies on me 24/7 and still deserves to continue on with her life in the same way as before. So if you see me in the grocery store without a little person sobbing over the oranges, know I am okay, it’s just time for me to be free in my grief. Why oranges you ask? Who knows. Grief is funny like that.