Many moms don't always feel like there's time to deal with stress and grief because we need to stay strong for our children. As Circle of Moms Rebecca T. voices in the face of a number of recent losses: "How do you cope with your responsibilities as a mother, partner, and any other important roles you have (like work, etc.) and still deal with these kind of challenges?"
When my grandmother died a few weeks ago, I faced the same internal question. Though I know I was lucky to have her as long as I did, and my kids were so lucky to know their great-grandmother, it still hit me hard. What hit me even harder was the realization that as a mother, I wasn't sure how to make time to mourn.
Still, I did something that was unprecedented for me — I took time off to grieve. Here's what I learned about navigating grief while still being a mom to your kids.
Do Take Time Off to Mourn
For me, there were first the practical pieces to face: travel arrangements to make it to the funeral, as well as child care and carpool arrangements. I wanted to make sure my mother and grandfather were holding up OK and, of course, I had to make sure my kids were doing OK.
Once I dealt with the practical side of mourning, I did something that was for me, unprecedented. In the face of a looming book deadline and other work responsibilities, in the midst of my children's crazy schedules and my husband's need to get work done, too, I took time off to grieve.
Don't Let It Catch Up to You
I'm glad I took that time, because moms like Jackie T. say if you don't, it will catch up to you. Jackie's mother died right before her wedding, so amongst the wedding planning, making sure her father was OK, and myriad other life happenings, she feels like she never took the time to grieve properly. Nearly a decade later, Jackie says she has moments where she "loses it" and gets very angry.
Don't Hide Your Grief
The problem with grief is that it's unpredictable. One moment I would be OK and the next moment, I would choke up with tears. I worried about staying strong for — and not crying in front of — my children.
As I read the Circle of Moms communities looking for support, something member Anissa M. says to other grieving mothers really resonated with me. She advises: "You are going through [a] normal state. In watching my family, the biggest thing I learned is not to hide your grief from your kids. If you need to cry, cry. If you are angry, let them see you angry. As you well know, kids pick up on everything!" I realized she was right. My children were grieving, too, and if I wanted them to be able to talk to me about it, hiding my own grief was counterproductive.
Do Accept That Mourning is an Ongoing Process
Most importantly, I have discovered that even with having taken some uninterrupted time to mourn and being honest about my grief, it's not time-limited. Some days are easier than others, but as mom Libby H. points out, there's no right way to cope. "As long as you're moving forward, you're making progress," she shares.