Parenting after loss can be challenging. Today’s episode is going to explain how to handle it the best you can while still taking care of you.
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Hey, and welcome to episode 40. How are you guys doing? We’re one week into pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. How are you doing with those intentions and goals that we set last week?
I. Uh, I had to take my own advice and really decide what results I wanted to get as I support you all and celebrate the podcast birthday. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, get over there for some awesome birthday presents I’m giving away. It’s at Amy dot Smooth Stones Coaching. And don’t forget the special podcast listener contest for a hundred dollars Amazon gift card.
Just review the podcast and email me a screenshot to firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus you get three extra entries if you share something about the podcast or an episode that helped you. Or anything and send that over to me in the same email and I will get you all entered. I wanted to talk about parenting after loss today and helping your kids through the really tough stuff.
I shared this speech at an online conference I was invited to, and I thought it would help you guys so much as well, especially during this month. Do you involve your children? Do they help you with the projects you’re doing and attend the walks and light a candle with you on the 15th? Mine do. I love to involve them as much as I can.
They talked about that in their own words back in episode 26. If you haven’t listened to it, you have to. My kids were so brave and they just told their experience of losing two of their siblings. So my children were 9, 8, 6, and three years old when their baby sister died. I remember so vividly that time we were so excited to bring another baby into our family, and we were shocked when we found out we were having a fifth daughter.
Our girls were over the moon. I was excited too, but by the time I hit 39 weeks, I was a little bit stressed. My mom flew into town to help. When we went to the hospital, I was in full nesting mode, getting everything done that I could before I had a newborn and I had to do everything one handed. Again, I was wondering how I was gonna manage five kids.
Four is a lot, but five just seem like so much more. Like most parents, I think you wonder if you’ll be able to handle it. Even though it’s already too late to go back, I loved being a mom. It’s all I had ever wanted to do, and I was grateful I could stay home and get to live my dream. But the dream is often filled with potty training and cleaning and getting everyone to eat something somewhat healthy each day, so it’s easy to get bogged down in the details.
Just a few days from my due date, we were ready. The car seat was in the car. Laundry was freshly washed in drift. And don’t you just love the smell of drift having so many girls in a row? It was really just a matter of constantly rotating bins of little pink clothes. We were all set. We decided to take a day and go hiking in a nearby national park.
I was hoping all the walking would help start labor, and we’d be meeting our little one very, very soon. Have you ever had a time like this? You feel like you have life all planned out, things are going pretty good, and even though it’s not perfect, you are handling whatever comes your way. Or maybe you feel like you’re already hanging on by a thread.
You don’t know if you can take anything else going wrong. And sometimes we do actually feel like we are living a blessed life. We are grateful and everything is going smoothly for a season. A season that we never expected to end. But then something changes. Suddenly everything goes out the window and you’re left feeling lost like a boat with no anchor.
You thought you had this parenting thing down, but when something hard comes up, you don’t know if you can handle it, let alone help your kids handle it. That’s just a fraction of how I felt only a day after that hike when we went into the doctor, because the baby wasn’t kicking and heard nothing on the fetal doppler, nothing on the small ultrasound machine.
And finally, the words, there is no heartbeat after a thorough but silent ultrasound. Our daughter was dead inside of me just four days before her due date, and my first thought was for my little girls at home. They imagined that we were having their baby sister, but now we had to tell them that she was gone.
How do you even begin to explain that? My husband went home and sat them all down. He told them what happened, and they were all devastated and confused and heartbroken and worried, and I was at the hospital worried for them and heartbroken for them. The next day they got to come and meet her. Some people might think that is weird that children shouldn’t hold a lifeless baby, but I felt that it was very important for them to see her, to see her little fingers and her toes and all her dark hair, and get a chance to talk to her and have some pictures taken.
We named her Lauren. This was the beginning of my journey of parenting my kids through something really hard, and even though it was incredibly difficult for me, I knew I needed to be the best mom I possibly could to help my girls through their grief and eventually to their healing. Today, I wanna tell you three things will help you when your children are facing something very difficult.
It could be that you’re moving to a new place. Or that they get an injury in sports. It could be a huge disappointment or a death in the family or the death of their sibling. It could be a challenge they’re facing or something that happens to a friend. It could be something scary on the news that they’re worried about.
It could even be this pandemic changing what they thought their year would look like. Whatever tough challenge your child is going through, these tips are gonna help. So apply them to whatever you have going on now, or tuck them away for later. Because the reality is our kids are going to encounter difficult circumstances, and as parents, we have the opportunity to guide them through it as best we can.
And I think after this lesson, you’re gonna feel much more equipped to deal with it and much more confident that you can. I. The first thing we need to do is be straight. Kids can tell when we’re dancing around a subject, they can sense it. When they see how uncomfortable we are. It sends a message that it’s not okay to talk about what’s going on.
You have to make a conscious decision that you will use. Proper age appropriate language. When our daughter was stillborn, I read so many books and all of them agreed that we need to use clear language. Some people want to say the baby went to sleep, which may cause your child to become afraid of sleeping or that she became an angel, which can be very confusing Sometimes we say we lost the baby, which is likewise very confusing.
Sometimes we talk about grandma being sick and dying without being clear that she had cancer, so the child will become scared of catching anything. If someone died by suicide, we may say they got really sad and so they died. What message do you think a child would get from that? You can imagine that they might think, if I get sad, I might die too.
We told our kids that the placenta, which helps the baby breathe and eat, stopped working so she couldn’t breathe and she died. Because that is the truth as far as we can tell, and it’s not easy, but it is important. Answer their questions. Kids have the best questions and the most challenging questions.
They’re curious. They want to understand. They need to process in their own way. It’s up to us as adults to allow them what they need. If you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and they have a deep question, it’s important to stop and answer it. And don’t they always have the best questions right in the middle of something?
If they express their emotions, allow them to do it. After Lauren died, my kids would tell me they missed her, and I would say, me too. And they would say they were sad, she died. And I would say, me too. The thing about kids is they don’t grieve the way adults do. It’s not always on their minds. They move in and out of their emotions.
They focus on other things, and that is just perfect for them. But that’s why it’s so important to meet them where they are in the moment. If they know that we are safe to talk to at any time, they will not hide what’s going on. If they know it’s okay to cry or to ask for some space, they will learn to allow their emotions.
If they see us expressing emotions and talking about what has happened, they will know that it’s okay for them too. Sometimes my children will go months without saying anything, and then they will have a question seemingly out of the blue, even seven years later, and we just answer them the best we can.
And sometimes our best is, I don’t know, often in the beginning of something hard. There are a lot of questions about why it happened. Most why questions don’t have good answers, and so often we go to cliches or platitudes, don’t do that. It’s okay to say you don’t know or ask your child what they think the answer is.
This can open up a beautiful conversation or a window into what is going on in their head. We all know how therapeutic it can be to just be heard. You don’t always have to have the answers. You just have to be there and be straight with your kids. This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us because we have grown up in a culture that is uncomfortable with death and hardships.
So you have to be intentional, but I promise you can do this, and that leads into our second tip. Trust that you know exactly what to do. Yes. I said, exactly. Look, I get it. When something comes out of left field and your kid is hurting, it’s easy to feel like you are not prepared for this. I. The first thing so many of us do is look to experts.
We read all the books and we ask our friends, and we search to Google and we look everywhere outside of us for answers, and that’s okay. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there to help us, and I tend to go to books as well. But what I want you to remember from today is that you’re actually much more prepared for this than you think you are because you know your kid.
I believe that our children are entrusted to us for a reason, and that means we were chosen to be their parents. So even if you feel like you’re completely failing right now and you have no idea what to do, and maybe you feel like you know nothing about how to help your child keep coming back to this, you are the exact mom your child needs, and you have the answers within you, even for the really, really tough stuff, especially for the tough stuff.
And you have the strength you need to help them. A lot of parents will wonder if they need to bring in extra help like a therapist to deal with what’s going on. Maybe if you are wondering this right now or if you have a therapist and you aren’t sure if they’re the right one for your child, bring it right back around to what I said before.
Trust yourself to know. It’s easy to sit and wonder and worry, but sometimes we just have to take action. Talk to your kid, get their opinion. Ask around, try out some different people, look for resources, and then make a choice. In the times my kids have struggled, we have tried lots of different things.
Some were great, some weren’t a good fit, and some we’re still figuring out. But through it all, I trusted myself and I kept the lines of communication open with my children. You get to set the tone, even if your kid doesn’t want to set foot in therapy or even talk about their feelings. Even if they’re acting out, instead of telling you how they really feel, or if they’re showing up perfectly and you had no idea how much they were struggling until it came to a breaking point, you still get to believe that you are the exact mom your kids need and you know how to help them.
There is no upside to telling yourself otherwise. Write it on a post-it note. Put it on your mirror, put it on the lock screen of your phone. If you are in the thick of something hard right now, you may need to remind yourself this over and over. And I have one last tip I want you to remember right alongside that, so grab an extra post-it.
Nothing has gone wrong. I’m gonna repeat that. Nothing has gone wrong. You may be thinking. I don’t understand what’s happening because it’s definitely a mess if your kid is suicidal or is taking drugs. If you just found out that she’s been cutting. If your marriage is over and you have no idea how you’re gonna handle things on your own, if someone in your family was killed suddenly, or someone is struggling with a difficult illness, and of course for all of us, if your baby has died and maybe more than one, as humans, our first reaction is to freak out and fight against what is happening.
When Lauren died, I didn’t think it was fair that my little children should have to suffer a loss like that at their ages. The questions that would come out of their sweet little faces would break my heart, and I wondered why they had to experience this. But the reality is things are gonna happen. We are all going to experience pain on this earth.
It’s part of being mortal sickness, death and hardship are all part of the deal. Even for kids. Children are not exempt, but we often think they should be, that their lives should be smooth sailing with good grades, nice friends, always making a goal in every game. Perfect health. No heartbreaks and no sadness at least until they get to be 30 years old or so.
But as the saying goes, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. This challenge you’re facing today and the ones you have faced and the inevitable ones in the future are a part of your story and your child’s story, but we create so much extra suffering by wishing it was different by doing everything we can to avoid it.
But it’s not our job to plow a perfect path for our children. It’s not our job to take away their pain. It’s our job to show them how to handle adversity, to teach them how to feel all their feelings, even the negative ones, which often means we have to figure that out for ourselves first. It seems counterintuitive, but leaning into the sadness is what helps us get through it faster and without all the extra layers of suffering.
It seems really hard to let our kids struggle. I know that, but the struggle can be a gift if we let it. A masterclass that brings them so much growth and perspective and strength. I would never have chosen for my children to have to bury their sister or to have to go through the miscarriage of another sibling they didn’t get to meet a few years later.
That’s because I like you, don’t like my kids to suffer. But it did happen, and when it did, I had the choice of how I wanted to show up. When everything outside of you seems out of control, you always have control of yourself. The reality is, I. Things happen, and that’s just part of living. Nothing has gone wrong.
Now, I have a little bonus tip here because I know that for many of you, when your kids are going through something hard, like the death of their little sibling, You are going through it at the same time. Or if you have one child really struggling, you are torn between their needs and the needs of your other kids who are watching it all, and this is where it is so important to take care of you.
After I delivered Lauren, I was at home. Everyone kept telling me to rest, but all I wanted to do was take care of the kids in the house and it was difficult to lay there and just be sad, but I needed to. Then as time went on and life seemed to get back to normal, I did sometimes want to just go back to bed and cry, and it was really hard to ask for help and space to do that, but I needed to.
Sometimes you feel so alone and like no one knows what you’re going through. Even your spouse may not be the support you hoped for. That’s when you have to have your own back, ask for help, make time for you, and practice believing in yourself. It’s not always going to be this hard, I promise. Just be straight with your kids about what’s happening.
Trust that you know exactly what to do, including if you need to bring in extra help. Remember that nothing has gone wrong. Life is tough, but so are you and so are your kids, and then take care of you. You can do this. You really, really can. You guys. I know that was a lot of information. So I have A P D F, which has all the bullet points from this episode, and you can get it for free download.
It is at smooth stones coaching.com/tough-stuff, so it’s a regular dash, not an underscore. Smooth Stones coaching.com/tough stuff. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but I’ve got this thing, you can just print it out or keep it on your phone and it’s gonna keep these right there so that if you’re in the middle of something right now, and I think most of us really are, then you have that resource ready for you.
So go and grab that. Leave a review, enter the contest. I want to give away lots of prizes. I really wanna give back to you. I appreciate you being here. Thank you so much, and I will talk to you next time.