The Internal Battle of Parenting After Loss
By: Sabrina Ivy
Parenting is hard. Parenting after loss takes it to a whole other level. From the moment we find out we are pregnant, we immediately begin to imagine our family with our new bundle of joy. Our sole purpose becomes ensuring we are doing everything we can to bring our babies into this world and keep them safe and healthy.
Nothing will make you question everything you knew about parenting like your baby dying.
It immediately thrusts you into this world of anxiety. You get this awful feeling that something is going to happen to your other children. Your greatest fear is that death could come along at any moment and steal another one of your children.
You MUST remain diligent and eliminate any and all threats. Or so we think.
Without even realizing it, you’ve become a helicopter parent. As if all dangers are magnified for your children specifically more than any other children. Suddenly there is a target on their backs and tragedy could strike at any time. Again.
I desperately wanted them to be brave and experience the world…but at the same time I needed to keep them safe. I always loved watching my kids try new things. The very thought of that became frightening.
What if they fell. What if a car hit them when they were riding their bike in the court. What if a dog came into our yard and attacked them. What if I was in the other room and they suddenly choked on their snack. What if there is a shark at the beach. Yes, this was a fear of mine. One of many more and I couldn’t possibly list them all.
I checked their breathing at least 3 or 10 times a night. The smoke detector batteries were changed almost monthly. I checked to be sure their windows were securely locked. My 9 and 7-year old’s little worlds became even smaller overnight.
Is it normal? Yeah…it is. It turns out a lot of us loss mommas are like this after loss. Is it rational? No. We have this false sense that we can control the world our children live in. We can’t.
We aren’t eliminating danger, we end up eliminating joy, healing, and the beauty of watching our children grow into their own little person.
There comes a time when you need to do a reality check. Let them ride their bike. Go to the beach and let them have fun. Let them play. Let them be little without all of the fears and worries put on their shoulders.
Nurturing children through their grief is filled with unexpected moments. I’ve always welcomed my children to grieve anytime and anywhere they need. After all, If I can’t help but break down in the middle of the produce aisle, I certainly can’t expect them to. We call those moments “Alivia moments.” A few months after Alivia died we went to a children’s resale store. Collin was kneeling down at a tricycle.
He called out “Mommy, this would be perfect for Alivia if she were here. She could sit here and I could push her from behind! She really would have loved that! But she’s not here…do you think they have tricycles in heaven, Mommy?”
Oh my momma-heart. Tears were streaming down his little face as he had his moment completely unaware that a stranger overheard the entire exchange and was moved to tears herself. He quietly acknowledged his “Alivia moment” and asked if we could leave. So we did. What is the protocol for walking a child through their grief? This isn’t something we are prepared for. We just take a deep breath and pray that we are giving them the support they desperately need. It’s ok to miss your sister or brother. It’s ok to cry in the toy aisle. It’s ok to have those moments of weakness. It really is ok.
While I was mourning our daughter, our other children were waiting for me to be the parent they needed, too.
Another thing that happens to some of us is we lose our ever loving minds. Discipline gets thrown out the window. Complete indulgence becomes the norm. Bed time? What’s that? We are left with children who are also grieving and the last thing we want to do is to cause one more tear to fall or be the person to add one more crack in their broken little hearts.
My husband actually had to call me out on this. I will never forget him ever so lovingly say “Sabrina, what is happening here? You never used to let the kids walk all over you before.” Ugh.. He was totally right! He had to snap me out of it. While I was mourning our daughter, our other children were waiting for me to be the parent they needed, too.
We as loss parents tend to be especially hard on ourselves. Take a deep breath and know you are doing an amazing job because you are here and you are trying. The loss of a child changes the family landscape forever. It takes some time to find our balance again. Give yourself some grace and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
You’re not alone in this. Parenting after loss is hard…but you have beautiful reasons to keep fighting.
Sabrina has been married to her wonderful husband, Chris, for 13 years. She is a mommy to four beautiful children; two that walk with them and two that live in Heaven. They are a homeschooling families and have found great comfort in being able to mourn and grieve in their own ways together. The Ivy’s daughter was stillborn at almost 37 weeks on March 22, 2014. This has been a journey of faith, grief and hope for their family.
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