Parenting While Grieving: A Dad’s Thoughts

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Parenting While Grieving

Hey there, old friend. Life, huh? One day it’s all pancakes and superheroes, the next day you’re getting hit with the kind of news that feels like a sucker punch to the gut. That’s what happened to me when I lost my mom. The world, as I knew it, suddenly shifted on its axis, and the pain of her absence was, and still is, profound.

Parenting while grieving… now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d be intimate with. It’s like trying to juggle flaming torches while riding a unicycle on a tightrope. Picture that for a second. Tricky, isn’t it? But that’s what it felt like. It was a journey of walking the tightrope between my own grief and the daily demands of fatherhood.

You see, when you’re a parent, your kids look to you for guidance, comfort, and even a little bit of wisdom now and then. But what happens when you’re trying to navigate through your own ocean of sorrow? That’s what parenting while grieving is all about. You’re trying to make sense of your own loss while comforting and guiding your children through theirs. It’s about nurturing them through this challenging journey, all while you’re grappling with your own sorrow. It’s the love for our children, that inexplicable, all-consuming love, that keeps us moving forward.

parenting while grieving - a parent dealing with grief

Understanding Grief and Its Impact on Parenting

Grief… it’s a four-letter word that holds a universe of pain. It isn’t just one emotion, it’s a whirlpool of them. It’s a profound sense of loss, sadness, anger, fear, confusion, and so many more. From denial to anger, bargaining to depression, and finally acceptance, these stages of grief can weave a complicated emotional tapestry. Books like this one can help explain the stages of grief to children.

Something Very Sad Happened book

Grief is the uninvited guest that overstays its welcome. And when it decided to move into my life, it brought along its luggage of emotions. These feelings, as unruly as they were, started to seep into my role as a parent. My patience became as thin as one of those crepes my mom used to make, my focus scattered like Lego blocks across a playroom floor. And, at times, I was as emotionally distant as a far-off galaxy. My kids, bless their hearts, were often left bewildered, trying to understand why daddy was different.

The thing is, grief doesn’t play by any rules. It can strike at the most unexpected times. And when you’re parenting while grieving, it’s a delicate balancing act. It’s like you’re in a boxing ring, one hand trying to shield yourself from grief’s punches, and the other trying to hold and protect your child. It’s hard, incredibly so.

Yet, in those moments, one principle kept echoing in my mind, a golden rule of sorts, taught to me by my mom, ironically during our countless airplane journeys together. “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” Now, I understand the true weight of her words. You see, self-care is not a luxury; it’s essential, especially when you’re grieving. When we care for ourselves, we can better care for our children. We can be there for them, whole and present, navigating through this storm, together.

Prioritizing Open Communication with Your Children

You know, when you become a parent, no one hands you an instruction manual. But I swear, nothing could’ve prepared me for the kind of conversations I’d be having with my kids after grandma left us. This was the part where the flaming torches I was juggling while riding my unicycle on a tightrope turned into chainsaws. Talking to my little ones about grief, about the confusing and painful cocktail of emotions we were all experiencing, felt like navigating a minefield.

Yet, in these rocky waters of parenting while grieving, I realized the importance of keeping communication lines wide open with my kids. We held family huddles, where we’d sit and chat about grandma, about what we were feeling, and about what we missed most about her. As difficult as these conversations were, they allowed us to share our individual experiences of loss. We’d discuss things in an age-appropriate manner, using metaphors like missing a favorite toy or dealing with a best friend moving away.

I noticed that giving words to our grief, acknowledging the elephant in the room, helped us better understand our own emotions and foster empathy for each other. In creating this safe harbor of understanding and communication, I hoped to provide my kids with the tools to process their own grief, while making sure they knew it was okay to express their feelings.

parenting while grieving - Mom and Daughter eating breakfast in bed

Maintaining Consistency and Routine

You know how in movies, the captain tries to keep the ship steady amid a storm? That’s how I felt when I had to maintain our family routine amidst the chaos of grief. I found that consistency was like a trusty anchor in the unpredictable seas of parenting while grieving. Calendars with uplifting quotes helped us maintain some normalcy.

There’s something comforting about the familiar rhythm of everyday routines. Waking up at the same time, having meals together, homework at the kitchen table, bedtime stories; these little moments of normalcy helped us find our footing amid the grief. White noise machines and weighted blankets made bedtime soothing.

But hey, this didn’t mean we had to be robots. I knew that some days would be harder than others. There were times when we needed to huddle under the covers a bit longer, skip a homework assignment, or eat ice cream for dinner (don’t tell the dentist). I learned to adapt our routine to our emotional needs, creating a balance between stability and flexibility.

Through it all, I aimed to provide a sense of security and predictability for my kids, a lifeboat in the turbulent waters of grief. Sometimes, maintaining consistency meant admitting that it was okay to have inconsistent days. It meant understanding that while grief was now part of our lives, it did not define us or our family routine completely.

Seeking Support Networks and Professional Help

When grief struck, it felt like I was suddenly thrust into a wilderness with no compass. I’ll tell you, friend, it’s a daunting place to be. And that’s when I understood the true value of a support system. Whether it’s friends who don’t mind you venting at 2 am, family members who step in to help with school pick-ups and meal prep, or community members who simply offer a kind word, these people became my North Star in the wilderness.

If you’re navigating the journey of parenting while grieving, know that it’s okay to lean on others. It’s okay to accept help. Heck, it’s okay to ask for help. You’re not alone in this, and you don’t have to be.

I also explored therapy and counseling, for both myself and the kids. Speaking to professionals provided a safe space to express our feelings and learn coping mechanisms. Grief is complicated, and sometimes having a professional guide can make the path a bit less rocky. There are plenty of resources and organizations out there that offer assistance to grieving parents, and it’s perfectly okay to use them.

Embracing Emotional Vulnerability

Alright, friend, let’s get real here. I’m a dad. I’ve been conditioned to be the strong one, the unshakeable pillar for my family. But when I was parenting while grieving, I realized that it’s not about being invincible; it’s about being human. Journaling helped me embrace emotional vulnerability – this guided grief journal was a useful tool.

Grief peeled away my armor and left me standing there, vulnerable, raw, and incredibly human. And you know what? I let my kids see that. I let them see me cry when I missed my mom, let them see me struggle with my sadness, my anger, and my confusion. In doing so, I hoped to show them that it was okay to feel, that it was okay to be vulnerable.

By normalizing these emotions, I tried to model healthy coping mechanisms for my kids. If daddy can cry and still be okay, then they could too. By encouraging them to express their own feelings, I aimed to help them understand their own grief better.

In a world that often demands us to wear a brave face, it’s empowering to realize that our true strength lies in our emotional vulnerability. Being human, with all its beautiful messiness, is what makes us stronger. Grief taught me that. It showed me the strength in my tears, the courage in my sadness, and the power in my vulnerability.

Mom and daughter walking in a field - parenting while grieving

Fostering Resilience and Strength

Being a parent while grieving felt like I was stuck in a seemingly endless loop of reality TV show challenges, each one harder than the last. Yet, in the midst of all this, I saw an opportunity – to teach my children about resilience. You see, every superhero needs to face some adversity to discover their true power, right? (Or so I tell my kids as I make capes out of bed sheets.)

I wanted them to understand that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, that it’s okay to fall apart sometimes. What matters is that we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and continue. We can’t control the waves of grief that hit us, but we can learn to surf.

Promoting healthy coping strategies became as important as remembering to pack their favorite snacks for school. Deep-breathing exercises, mindfulness walks, journaling – we explored them all. And together, we celebrated small victories, like making it through a tough day or expressing a difficult emotion.

Through this, I aimed to nurture resilience in my kids, to show them that even in the face of adversity, we can find strength within ourselves. That even on the hardest days, there’s a tiny spark of resilience within us, waiting to ignite.

Balancing Self-Care and Parenting Responsibilities

Remember that oxygen mask analogy? That’s where self-care comes in. Parenting while grieving is a marathon, not a sprint, and like any marathon runner, you need to keep yourself hydrated. In this context, hydration comes in the form of self-care.

As a grieving parent, self-care became my lifeline. Whether it was taking a hot bath after a long day, going for a quiet walk, or just enjoying a cup of coffee in silence, these moments of solitude were my sanctuaries. They were my opportunities to recharge and replenish, to give myself the emotional fuel I needed to be there for my kids.

But let’s face it, balancing self-care and parenting responsibilities can be as tricky as getting a toddler to eat their vegetables. However, I learned that it wasn’t about carving out huge chunks of time for self-care but finding little moments throughout the day. Five minutes of deep breathing here, a ten-minute walk there, it all adds up. Making time for activities like puzzles or reading allowed me to recharge.

And as I took care of myself, I found that I was better equipped to manage my parenting responsibilities. The key, my friend, is balance. Not an easy task, I admit, but absolutely essential when you’re parenting while grieving.

Honoring the Memory of the Deceased

Every superhero has an origin story, right? So, I made sure my kids knew theirs. I told them stories about their grandma – her strength, her kindness, her legendary apple pie. We laughed, we cried, and in the process, we kept her memory alive. Photo albums and memory books helped us honor her.

Encouraging this positive remembrance became a cherished part of our routine. We incorporated simple rituals and traditions, like making her famous apple pie on her birthday, visiting her favorite park, or simply sharing stories about her over dinner.

Through these small gestures, I aimed to help my children develop a healthy perspective on loss and remembrance. I wanted them to understand that while we missed grandma dearly, we could keep her memory alive in our hearts and in our stories.

Remembering her didn’t mean we were stuck in our grief. Instead, it was a way for us to honor her life, to remember the love and joy she brought into ours, and to carry her legacy forward.

A young girl looking at a photo album as she deals with grief


Well, there you have it, folks. My journey of parenting while grieving, with all its bumps, twists, and turns. It’s been a roller-coaster, to say the least, but in this journey, I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel, it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s absolutely okay to prioritize self-care.

And above all, I’ve learned that while grief is a journey, it’s not a journey you have to walk alone. Through open communication, maintaining routine, seeking support, embracing vulnerability, fostering resilience, and honoring memories, we can navigate the challenging landscape of parenting while grieving.

As parents, our role is to nurture and guide our children, even as we navigate our own emotions. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that often feels more like a high-wire circus performance. But remember, we’re all doing the best we can, and that’s more than enough.

If you’re on this journey, know that you’re not alone. Know that it’s okay to stumble, it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to laugh. And remember, just like that superhero with the bedsheet cape, you have an inner strength, a resilience that will carry you through. So, keep going, my friend, and remember to pause and breathe. Because in the end, that’s what parenting while grieving is all about – taking it one breath at a time.

Grief Resources & Support for Families | Good Grief (

Book - I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye
Book - It's OK That You're Not OK
Book - Healing After Loss

Hey there! I'm Allen, but you can call me "The Corny Dad" from Canada. I have a wife and four kiddos. Yep, one's full grown, but they'll always be my babies. When I'm not doing something with my family or playing video games, I'm here, jotting down my bits of wisdom on this blog. From the fun stuff to the parenting chaos, I cover it all. Believe me, with the right attitude, parenting's a smoother ride and I'm here to help.

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