Grieving the Loss of a Spouse While Raising Children
Updated: Jan 26
Grieving while parenting can be incredibly difficult, especially when you lose a spouse. After the funeral, you may feel overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of being both mother or father to your children while trying to keep yourself together in the process.
Furthermore, coming to terms with this new reality of being a single parent can be an immense struggle. Therefore, it is important to understand that you are not alone in your grief and that there are ways to cope with the pain while still providing your children with the support they need while grieving their own loss. It is also beneficial to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to your grief journey. However, we highlight a few tips in this article to help you navigate this difficult season of your life.
Delayed Grief while Parenting
As a widow, it can be hard to take the time needed to grieve when you are also responsible for caring for your children or are trying to manage the other obligations of life. This is a primary reason why grieving parents often feel overwhelmed; like they don't have enough time or energy to process their own grief and tend to their children's needs simultaneously. This can result in delayed grieving, where a parent doesn't take the time to acknowledge or process their feelings until later when they have more capacity to do so.
Unfortunately, delaying or suppressing grief can lead to both emotional and physical problems in the long run. Grieving parents may struggle with depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and health issues that can be directly linked to their unresolved grief. As a grieving parent, you must recognize that grief is a natural part of life and cannot be ignored forever. So, it is essential to allow yourself time away from parenting duties when needed to process your grief. This doesn’t mean you forget about or abandon your children, but it does mean that you take time to cater to your own emotional needs. This might require you to solicit support from others, so you can have time alone time with yourself, God, or a counselor to help you process your pain.
Tips for Coping with Grieving the Loss of a Spouse while Raising Children
Grieve in Your Own Time and Way
Grieving while parenting can be a difficult balance, as you must learn how to be both parent and caretaker of your feelings. You need to take the time and space to mourn in whatever ways are most meaningful for you. Whether through small moments of reflection or more lengthy periods of processing. The grieving process is different for everyone, so don't be hard on yourself if it takes longer than you expect.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It's okay to have a range of emotions, and it's important to recognize them. Allow yourself to feel angry, sad, scared—even joy and peace if that comes up. These are natural responses to grief, so don’t judge your emotions. Acknowledge them and find healthy ways to express them. You may also find comfort in talking with someone who has been through a similar situation or in writing down your thoughts and feelings.
Be Kind to Yourself
As a grieving parent, it is essential to remember that there is no "right" way to cope with your grief while still parenting. Grief can be an overwhelming experience, and there will be days when you feel like you need a break from parenting responsibilities. And in those moments, it is important to be kind and gentle with yourself. Grieving parents don't need additional guilt or judgment but compassion and understanding.
Share the Grief with your Children Based on their Developmental Stages
Grief is a process that your children will experience too. You may be mourning differently than them but remember that they are also going through their unique journey of loss and healing. So, depending on their age and development stage, you can talk to them about the situation in ways that make sense for them. Letting your children know that you are grieving and that it's okay to do so helps them feel comfortable expressing their own emotions.
Take Care of Yourself
Grieving takes a lot of energy and care. So, grieving parents should make sure to take extra time for themselves, even if it is just an hour or two each day. Eating regular meals and getting enough sleep can seem like a monumental task while grieving but try to prioritize taking care of these basic physical needs. Exercise can also be helpful for managing stress, as it helps to release endorphins and boosts energy levels. Additionally, engaging in activities that you enjoy can be life-giving and helpful for you.
Maintain connection with your close family and friends
Grieving can be an isolating experience, so it can be helpful to connect with close family and friends. Having people that you trust and can talk to about your feelings can allow you to start processing your grief. Although certain family members and friends can be very supportive, keep in mind that some can also be harmful. The Bible provides the perfect example of this in the book of Job when his friends that were supposed to console him turned out to be miserable comforters who brought him more pain. Discern the people in your life who are good listeners that can provide you with the safe space you need to vent, cry, and express the heavy emotions you are carrying while grieving.
Find Healthy Distractions from the Grief
Grieving while parenting can be a difficult balance, as you must find ways to take your mind off the grief and focus on other areas of your life. This could include taking up an enjoyable hobby or spending time with friends or family. Finding joy and peace in everyday life can be healing and helpful during this process.
Be honest with God about your emotions
Spending alone time with God is a critical part of your healing process. Sometimes you can feel like no one can understand your pain, or that you don’t want to talk to your friends or family about how you are feeling. Thankfully, God is always available to listen to you, and can comfort you in your deepest hours of pain. Be honest with God about how you feel and use your time of prayer as an opportunity to release some of the thoughts and emotions that you’ve kept bottled up inside. Engaging in practices such as writing a lament can also be a helpful act to engage in while you are in communion with God.
Reach out for Professional Support
When you are grieving while parenting, it can be an isolating experience, and it is important to remember that you don't have to face your grief alone. Grief support groups can online forums can help you connect with others who understand the unique challenge of parenting while grieving. It's also crucial to recognize that a professional counselor or therapist can provide invaluable support. This is because grieving parents need a safe and nonjudgmental space—one where they don't have to feel the pressure of being strong but can be honest about their emotions so they can begin to heal.