On Grief

My son’s grandmother passed away over the summer and even though it was his first experience with losing someone he loved, he handled it quite well. Of course, she was ill for quite some time so his father and I had several conversations with him to prepare him for her death, but that doesn’t mean it was easy for any of us.

For many kids, death comes as a complete shock and can be devastating to all family members. Children also experience grief when their parents go through a divorce or when a family pet dies.

There are a great deal of resources I’ve come across in helping families handle the emotional roller coaster that inevitably comes when dealing with grief. I recommend that parents read about the Five Stages of Grief, originally outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

What I like to remind parents of during this difficult time is that each family member is going to be at a different stage at different times. While some might be in the Denial period, others will be in the Anger stage and not as sensitive to those who can’t sympathize with how they’re feeling. Depending on the child’s age and personality, some will take longer to sort through their emotions and move on to the next stage than others.

Grief comes when we experience the loss of any kind so the above stages of grief also apply to those who lose a job or lose a spouse through a divorce. Regardless of what your loss has been, you’re not alone. Finding support and connecting with those who have been through similar experiences can help you heal and move forward in a healthy way.

As difficult as it is to deal with the loss of a loved one, it is very important to give children a comfortable forum or outlet to express their feelings. Many suggest having them use art or writing to express themselves, reading books to help or finding a support group and allowing them to come up with creative ways to remember their loved one that is unique to them.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting

His mine, and ours

I had to drop off a few of my son’s things at his dad’s house this morning and it got me thinking about all of the items that have traveled back and forth from my house to his over the years and how most have never returned once they’ve left.

Tupperware goes into our son’s lunchbox and somehow disappears. We either have none in our cabinets or we’re overloaded with so much that we can’t seem to find room for it all. Same goes for silverware. I can’t seem to give in and buy plastic forks and spoons but I find myself texting my ex way too often asking him to return some to us. My son will then come home with a backpack full of spoons and forks, none that share the same design and some that I think never belonged to either of us in the first place.

My son’s backpack has been used to transport many things over the years, from child support checks to extra pajamas, endless toys, books and personal items that my son – at that particular time – could not part with.

This morning, it was his baseball gear that I was instructed to leave on the front steps of his dad’s house. I felt strange pulling up and leaving things outside his door but I couldn’t let my son carry around a baseball bat all day since it was too big to put inside his backpack.

I buy clothes for my son at Target, usually from the Clearance section because I know I’ll probably never see the outfit again once he wears them to his dad’s house. The baseball hats that I’ve purchased for my son over the years have disappeared too. And sweatshirts.

In the winter, I drop my son off at school in the morning, when it’s still a bit chilly outside. Sometime throughout the day, he leaves his sweatshirt somewhere and goes home with his dad when it’s sunny and warm. Then I get the phone call or text, “Where’s his sweatshirt?” And I somehow feel guilty that my son is without a sweatshirt, even though this is San Diego and it really doesn’t get all that cold if we’re comparing it to the winters in Minnesota when I had to walk to school uphill in the snow…

My ex has now inherited two of my beach towels. The ones with stripes that I bought from Target. I want them back. I may have to suggest a day where we throw together all of our collective “stuff” and sort through it to determine what belongs to whom. Kind of like we did when we got divorced, except this time our son will be the mediator so it won’t get ugly.

The underwear that my son never wears should stay here. Now that he insists on going ‘commando’, the brand new boxers should last until my youngest is out of diapers, although by then I’m pretty sure Huggies will have invented Diaper Jeans that actually look like real jeans and potty-training won’t actually occur until he leaves to college.

See what just happened? I started rambling and got off topic. I hate it when that happens.

Bottom line is – it’s a good idea to put things back where you found them. And don’t leave home without clean underwear.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home

Who Moved My Pillow?

My oldest son has had two separate homes now for the majority of his life. His father and I separated when he was just 2 1/2 years old. It seems like a lifetime ago, especially since he cannot even recall a time when we all lived under the same roof and I try to forget that part of my life ever happened.

He’ll be starting second grade in the fall, nearly 8 years old. He goes back and forth from our house to his father’s and not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if our schedule is putting more stress on him than necessary.

My son gets to see his dad and I every single day, not counting the weekends. During the week, if he wakes up at his dad’s house, he knows that he’ll be falling asleep here. When he wakes up in our apartment, in the room that he shares with my youngest son, he understands that he’ll go to bed that same night on the top bunk at his father’s house.

We have joint custody. We split holidays and birthdays. We each get two weeks’ vacation with him every calendar year and he gets to spend time with his extended family on each side.

But I can’t help but think that my son would benefit more from staying with either one of us for an extended amount of time. Some of my adult friends who grew up in two homes have shared their experiences from childhood and recall how much they hated spending a week with one parent at a time. Others couldn’t stand leaving their friends behind for the summer while they traveled to another city to ‘visit’ their other parent.

There is no ideal situation when your child has to go back and forth, along with his or her belongings that they can’t live without, or that they need for school. My son has duplicates of many things. Most families in our situation do. He sleeps in a different bed each night. The bathroom is in a different place, as is the light switch.

These are things that most of us don’t even think about. Our children get used to their homes and find comfort in routine but when your routine constantly changes, is there time to relax completely?

My son used to have a difficult time falling asleep. Now that he’s older I find he’s used to the back and forth routine and is comforted by listening to music before bed and knowing that he has a mom and dad that love him profusely, no matter where they are.

As he gets older, I have no doubt that he will request a different arrangement. Since he’s a boy, I assume he’ll want to spend more time with his father, but then again, he might feel more comfortable in our blended family, with his younger brother and his step-dad who offer him something completely different and unique.

Our family has survived much change over the years and maybe that’s a good thing, that my son can adjust and be flexible in most situations. But if I were him, I’d want to sleep in the same bed every night, with the same pillow and wake up in the middle of the night and know, even in the dark, where to find the light.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home