Thursday, October 29, 2020

Processing Grief with Toddlers

Something I've learned about toddlers in the time I've been a parent, is that they are incapable of holding in their emotions. They don't concern themselves with what others might think if they fall on the floor of the grocery store in a fit of tears. It's actually healthy and developmentally appropriate for them to behave that way. I think there are lessons to be learned from them in regard to the way we process our emotions.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you have major freak outs in public places. Avoid that if you can. 😳 But, I don't think we need to restrain ourselves the way we've been conditioned to do. My generation and the generation before me have been constantly told not to cry, to "man up" and stuff our feelings down. I've heard so many times that one should "stay strong for the kids", but if we don't model it for them, how will they know what healthy emotional responses look like?

When I received the call that my Uncle Kenny had passed away, we were in the middle of the grocery store. Not the place I would have liked to get such heartbreaking news, but what can ya do. I immediately started crying and hugging Gil. Olivia, from the cart, started saying "Mommy sad! Mommy sad!" and imitating my crying. Gil picked her up and we all embraced in a family hug. I cried and Gil told her "that's right, baby. Mommy IS sad. She's crying. It's okay to be sad and cry sometimes." and I just LOVED that response. She was obviously concerned about me and wanted to know what was going on. She didn't want to go back in the cart after that. She wanted me to hold her the rest of the time and was hugging me and saying "Mommy sad". I told her "yeah, I'm sad. But I'll be okay." 💕

I want more for Olivia. I will never tell her to hold it in and bottle it up. I'll sit with her through tantrums and offer her hugs. I will validate her feelings and give words to them, to help her through them. I will cry when I need to and scream into a pillow and express my feelings. I'll tell her it's okay to process emotions in ways that don't hurt anyone. I won't tell you what to do with your kiddos, as you know them best, but please know that they learn so much just by what they see and hear, so it's our job as their parents to set an example for them. Have you been through grief with your little ones? How did you handle it? How did they respond? Let me know in the comments.