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The Hidden Emotion of Grief with your Child’s Mental Health

The Hidden Emotions of Grief on your Child's Mental Health

Nowadays, many parents are having to support children and youth who are impacted by mental health. Seeing our loved ones struggling brings out many emotions, such as anger, anxiety, hopelessness, or sadness. One emotion that is not often discussed is grief.

Grief is associated with the feeling of significant loss, usually when someone dies or leaves our lives. In this context, we also grieve many things related to seeing our children struggle. Often, we grieve the childhood that we thought they would have, the relationship we miss having with them, the future we saw for them, the activities that they are missing out on, how we thought our parenting journey was going to go… the list can go on and on.

Grief is often masked by other emotions. For example, if your child is having to miss out on school events, this could show up as frustration towards the child, school system or even oneself. The other likely possibility is that your child is also grieving for similar things that you are.

How can we deal with this grief?

Below are some small but powerful steps that can make a difference:

  1. Label it: One of the main steps for being able to deal with our grief is naming it for what it is. Left unacknowledged, we will continue to mask this emotion and bury our feelings of loss.

  2. Build a support network for yourself: Having one person with whom we can talk about these feelings with can also help us process this emotion. This could look like a friend, family member, therapist, partner, or anyone else who can safety hold this emotion with us. Parent support groups can also be powerful space to resource and feel seen by other people going through similar experiences. If you are looking for a parent support group I encourage you to reach out to your local children’s mental health organization or you can check out the parents for children’s mental health website: https://www.family.cmho.org/peer-support-chapters/ . This organization offers parent support groups throughout Ontario.

  3. Focus on small achievements: recovering from mental health is a marathon and not a sprint. When our child is suffering, we want the quickest results (to free them, and us, from these emotions). Mental health recovery is often something that changes slowly over time through small steps. By being able to focus on the small steps, we can feel more hopeful and equipped to manage what is in front of us. This also may mean trying to focus on moment to moment coping versus what is to come years down the line. I have worked with many parents around focusing on the now and leaving the future for later.

  4. Self-compassion: I honestly do not think that I can stress this concept enough. So many parents feel an immense amount of guilt and blame for their children’s struggles. It is very important throughout this time that we engage in offering ourselves self-compassion. This could look different for each person: positive affirmations, guided self-compassion meditations, working out, buying ourselves the Starbucks drink, etc.

Please know that your grief is normal, it does not make you a bad parent, and it does not mean that this struggle is permanent.

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