Walking Children Through a Death in the Family
I'm teaching my children that it’s OK to grieve the loss of a loved one. Instead of sheltering them from my sadness, I’m welcoming them into it.
We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the death of a dear friend of mine.
I met Monte in college. He was flamboyant and loud and, as a freshman away from home, I was both terrified and fascinated by him.
He had a voice like a gospel angel and wasn’t afraid of conducting a public performance, wherever that might be: Walgreens, a bar or restaurant or randomly in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City where we both went to live after college. When his spirit was moved to song… he sang!
Monte struggled with cancer and died too young at 39 years old. I've been thinking about Monte a lot lately, I’ve been having dreams about him and I know it’s because the anniversary of him dying is only days away. Randomly, when I see someone that reminds me of him or hear a song that I know he’d like, my eyes begin to tear up and I’m instantly reminded that he isn’t here to pick up the phone and call to tell unimportant details of my day to.
“Oh my word Monte, you’ll never believe what this woman at the DMV is wearing!”
My children have noticed my moments of sadness. The other day, out of the blue, my youngest son said, “Mommy can we watch that video of your friend singing to L in your belly?”
I have a video of Monte singing to my belly at my baby shower when I was pregnant with L. If the house were on fire, I’d grab my children and that VHS tape and run.
We watched it and halfway through my older son appeared in the room, realizing what were watching and said, “I want to see it from the beginning!” So we watched it again and again, never tiring of hearing his beloved voice.
Monte still has a Facebook page, thankfully it hasn’t been shut down. Friends and family continue to tag Monte in pictures and in status updates. It feels like he’s still apart of our lives as his face will randomly appear in my newsfeed.
I want to instill in my children the compassion to acknowledge other people’s sadness while they are grieving. Instead of sheltering them from my sadness, I’m welcoming them into it.
I’m allowing myself to cry in front of them, not something I would normally do. And when I miss Monte, I tell them a funny a story about him. I tell them how much Monte loved them. We pull out the VHS tape and we watch him again and again. We've watched the video so many times that we often will say, "I love ya baby!" exactly how Monte does in the video. It has become our "inside family joke." (See attached video)
Pull out pictures of your loved one who have passed and continue to make them a part of your children’s lives. Tell stories, share memories and most important allow your child to ask questions and express their own grief or sadness. Open the window for your relationship to flourish, and welcome your children into your own grief.