How Grief Made Me a Better Parent

My son’s six-year-old playmate died suddenly not long ago and we are still going through the waves of grief. I still wake up at night to check on my own kids. I believe that Hunter is just now realizing it is a forever thing….I am sure dscn3265that this will affect him forever. Sometimes I find him just gazing at her photo and I am comforted by the fact that he has his own interpretation of the afterlife.

I have read on countless websites that you must impress on yourself and your kids that your life must go on. It is encouraged that the kids go about their routine as usual….even if nothing is the same anymore. In every tragedy is a silver lining and I was determined to find it. We were alive and B’s life was short but here to teach us something. When we went to her funeral, B’s father spoke of how B used every minute of every day to the fullest. She was full of energy and took on every task to the fullest of her ability. She never wasted anything, instead asking for it to be taped or glued back together, so in love was she with the things she already owned. Her father said that she probably lived more fully in her short six years than he has in his longer life. It made me think of what I could do to seize each day more completely.

This tragedy also made me a better parent. That is a definite silver lining. Before I was an impatient person always wanting my kids to walk faster, eat quicker and talk more to-the-point. Now? Now, I let them take their time getting to the point, if I can, and there is always time for an extra hug. I don’t panic if they are a little late for school or if they take a little longer getting ready for bed. I am more relaxed about those things. They are my tiny miracles and I cherish that they; want to hug, are excited to tell me things, and that they’re so healthy and hungry that they take a bit longer eating. I didn’t push them too hard before but I am even more patient and calm now. I feel so blessed and grateful that my family is healthy, happy, close and prosperous that nothing else matters.

I have realized a few other things as well.

1. Stuff is not the answer.

B was not a waster. She cherished all of her possessions. If something broke she didn’t ask for a new one- she asked for it to be fixed….immediately. When they noted this at the funeral (every time I type that word my eyes tear up), it made me think. That little girl used everything to the FULLEST. She knew what she owned and she loved it – sometimes literally to pieces.

I want to be that person! I want to declutter and donate any items I don’t feel I need so that someone else can love those items and use them to their fullest potential. I don’t want things lying around wasting away or not being loved. As a result, I will have fewer things and love them to ….well, to pieces.  My kids already think this way, so I will follow their lead.

If we all bought less but bought it in better quality and then used it until it was all used up, we would have landfills that were less full, less to manufacture so the warehouses didn’t have to work so hard (and emit harmful substances) and we would have fuller wallets.

This all makes me think of Toy Story 3 (SPOILER ALERT)……the part where Andy finally decides to give Woody and friends away so that a little girl will play with him and he will be loved instead of neglected on a shelf. This made me sad and hopeful all at once….and how I will probably be when I decide to donate a lot of my possessions.

2. Getting Older is a Privilege.

When B died, I was infuriated. She never got to: grow old, have a career, have a family or pets, or get wrinkles.

Then it made me realize- all over the world kids die for a myriad of awful or senseless reasons. Some never even last past a few days old…..getting older is a privilege!

Getting older is not a given. Getting older is a wonderful privilege that we should embrace. That I wasn’t embracing before now.

I want to share a little story. A few weeks ago, I was standing in the bathroom after a shower. I cleared the steam from the mirror and examined my face. I moaned at the papery look that is beginning on my neck and the extra lines around my mouth and eyes. I took some time that afternoon to research wrinkle-reducing skin creams for sensitive skin. Now my entire thought pattern has changed dramatically. What matters? Not that!! I am now insanely proud of all those lines and that papery skin. They tell a story of where I have been. Struggles created worry lines but I lived past those. Smiles and laughter created the other lines since I have been blessed with a life of laughter- full of a wonderful family and good friends. Even the callouses on my feet and hands remind me that I am able bodied enough to have work and activity to cause them. I am blessed and grateful that every day I am one day older and that my body shows me how far I have come with little reminders. Every face tells a story.

3. Really see and hear your loved ones.

I was used to “talking” to my kids while checking my texts, my emails or chopping dinner. Now, if my 8 year old dscn3262daughter or 5 year old son say they have something to tell me, I stop and make eye contact with them. I LISTEN to them with all of me now- not just my ears but my entire body language. I make a point of noticing their body language as well….is what they are telling me making them excited, nervous or joyful? I do the same thing to my husband, too! I listen, I see and I enjoy all of their presence. I don’t listen or pay attention with half an ear anymore. Lately, it has had to be a conscience choice, but I am hoping that it just becomes a habit. Now, it is not always possible to stop everything to listen but whenever it is, I try to be fully in the moment for what my loved one has to say. If it isn’t, say if I am chopping ingredients for dinner, then I try to invite the person to help me so we can be involved in the action together and it still feels like quality time. I don’t take the ones I love for granted anymore.

 

4. I live for the present.

I am really good at not following through on things or saying ‘tomorrow’ for everything. I am determined to do those crafts or activities with the kids as soon as possible- just after they ask if we aren’t busy! – and in not putting off playdates. Life is busy, we are all busy all the time, but it is important for my kids to build up relationships and be busy with their friends and in the activities that they love. I am going to try to make their needs and friendships more of a priority.

I am also trying not to put my own needs on the back burner as much. I have been trying to take up a few hobbies and activities for awhile now, but I keep putting it off because I let work or household duties take precedent. I vow to stop doing this!

 

So far those are the little revelations that have lit up in my head. I know they are the fodder for every self-help and self-love book out there but I don’t think I fully realized how awesomely true these life lessons are. I know I have read them before, and nodded my head in full agreement, but then I let menial tasks get in the way and didn’t embrace them as I should have. That stops now. I am forever changed by recent happenings and I am going to life life more fully as  the silver lining to all of this.

 

Related Posts:

Astronauts and Angels

My Son’s Friend Died and Nothing is the Same.

 

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