I got a message last week from a friend who has been reading my blog, which is, of course, about my grief process in the wake of my father’s death. She wrote that her biggest regret as a parent is that she never showed her children how to be vulnerable. She thought she had been protecting them by always showing them a strong façade. She hid her pain in order to protect them.
In hindsight she thought…
How can a child learn that it’s okay to feel deeply, if they’ve never seen that modeled for them?
I realized that while I have been sharing all of my feelings here with you, I haven’t really talked about grief much with my kids. They see me cloud up or tear up, but I do usually hold it back; push it down. Like other parent-friends who have reached out to me to share their experiences, I wait to cry in the shower, or I cry alone in my car.
As parents we want to protect our children from…well, from everything.
Even from feelings.
Our children are not fooled, though.
A few weeks ago, my girls and I were visiting a friend. I was talking with my friend about how I was coping with my father’s death. The girls were coloring nearby. My ten year old drew this portrait.
I’ll admit, at first it made me feel awful. Is this how she sees me? Is this the person she has been living with for the last three months? I realized that I’m not fooling my children by pushing back tears and putting on a “brave face.” (Whatever that means.)
Please don’t misunderstand me. As parents, perhaps our most important job is to reassure our children that their foundation is solid. They need to feel safe. We can’t be a hot mess all the time.
However, I understand now that it is okay for my children to see the tears flow. More importantly, it’s okay to talk to them about how I am feeling.
Because our children already know when we are sad, and we don’t want them to learn that sadness is something of which to feel ashamed; something that should be pushed down and buttoned up.
Maybe we should not shelter them from seeing us feel,
Seeing us grieve, and hopefully,
Seeing us heal.
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