Grieving, Parenting, and Finding Support in Pandemic Times
Do the ongoing stresses of COVID-19 feel like one problem too many for your grieving family? Are you wondering what to do to help your children weather this ongoing storm of loss? You’re not alone. Help — practical, evidence-based, free help — begins with just a few clicks on your screen…
Monique, a mother of a teenager living in Philadelphia, has a unique perspective on COVID-19. Monique had experienced what she describes as a “storm of grief,” with one death after another in her family over the course of two years.
“One thing I discovered…Grieving is not just about the loss of an individual. Grieving is loss. In this COVID time we have a combination of the loss of an individual, and then a loss of a way of life. A loss of independence, a loss of going outside and gathering with people. So we’re dealing with a compounding of grieving. That’s why the mental health and behavioral issues have increased exponentially, because of the compounding of grieving.”
Because of all of Monique’s work finding support through the storm of grief so that she could be there for her son and help him find solid ground, she is able to see COVID-19 with unique eyes, as another loss that parents must help their child move through and get to the other side, while also going through it themselves.
But are parents and caregivers really the people who can help kids through all this loss? Isn’t there someone else, like professionals, or schools, or counselors, who are better suited to this overwhelming job? All of those community support roles are helpful, but all of them are harder to access now.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret…research has shown that parents and primary caregivers are one of the most important resources for grieving children.
“Oh no,” you might be thinking, “don’t put that kind of pressure on me!” It’s ok! There’s really good news: The right kind of support and skill-building enables caregivers to support their children — and themselves — in ways that make a BIG difference.
“Says who,” you ask? Decades of hard-core scientific research that shows that parents are the real heroes for their children.
Ok, parents matter most, and some simple tools and practices can make them into heroes… if that’s true, why haven’t you heard this before? Well, one reason might be that there’s nothing to sell or buy: the thing that matters most for grieving families is not a drug, not a product, not even a book. It’s just you, the child’s primary caregiver, and the support you receive to make a difference for yourself and your kids through what you do every day.
Increasingly, the importance of support and education for caregivers of grieving children is being recognized and invested in. The National Alliance for Grieving Children, long known for its expertise and support for families and support organizations, has many resources and programs dedicated to supporting parents. And the New York Life Foundation has helpful resources for parents and has provided funding for an interactive web site specifically dedicated to helping caregivers and parents support children who have experienced the loss of a parent. The new site, bereavedparenting.org will be continuously rolling out new materials throughout the fall and winter of 2020-2021, and we cannot wait to share it with you. Most importantly, all information and resources are free and available to all caregivers and service providers who support bereaved children. Nothing to buy, just powerful new tools to learn and practice, and the support you need during this particularly challenging pandemic year.
The cornerstone of bereavedparenting.org is a set of practical tools adapted from the evidence-based Resilient Parenting for Bereaved Families Program. We call these “practical tools” because they go beyond giving helpful information to actually showing how you can put that information into practice. We’ve taught these tools in our group programs that have proven to be game changers for parents and their bereaved children – helping them cope with grief, weather longer-term challenges of bereavement, and ultimately thrive as they grow up and become adults. For the first time, these interactive practical tools, with accompanying follow-up activities and tip sheets, will be offered outside of a trained and supervised program setting, in an online format. The first one is available here, and it’s designed to help caregivers be kind to themselves so that they can be in a better place to parent their kids. New tools will be rolled out over the next couple of months to help you strengthen your relationship with your children and to help you listen so that they will share more with you.
Bereavedparenting.org aims to be a one-stop-shop for parenting resources related to helping children with issues surrounding death, grief, and the compounded stressors that come with bereavement. Podcasts are a great way to feel less alone while you’re taking a walk, folding laundry, or making dinner. The Community Resources section of the web site will offer short stories and podcasts that we’ve produced and collected specifically for parents and caregivers. We’ll also be developing a collection of other great resources for bereaved families that have been collected from many sources, including mindfulness tools and stress-reduction tips for overwhelmed caregivers, tips on helping children deal with their grief during COVID-19, and awesome books for bereaved parents and children. Finally, there will be wise words in future entries of this Resilient Parenting blog from experts in the field, including our amazing RPBF community partners who have been supporting grieving families for decades.
Grieving families are under more stress than ever during COVID-19, dealing with the loss and challenges of this time on top of the other profound losses they have experienced. Bereavedparenting.org is an online hub with many resources to help with the multiple losses families are experiencing. We can’t wait to accompany you through this season, and beyond.