Moms carry a lot of things for their children, their toys, shoes, and even their physical bodies, but when a child loses their dad, she adds a new weight to her load as she carries the weight of grief for her child.
No doubt, the child will feel the pain of the absence of their daddy but children, especially young ones, often do not yet have the maturity to fully process this great loss. And in the early days, months, and years, a mom will carry the grief for her children no matter their age. She has a perspective and a view that is much different from her kids. She can see and understand the depth of that loss in a greater way.
God designed families to include a mom and a dad and so they know that part is missing but they are not fully able to comprehend the loss in the same way a mom can. Children are children. Just as they cannot physically lift a heavy load, they will be unable to carry their grief on their own. Mom, if this is your story, you have been entrusted with this responsibility.
13 ways to carry the grief of a child
- Allow God to carry you and your grief as you carry the grief for your children. Process your own grief before Almighty God. This might include wrestling with God over the fact that He allowed something you would never have written into the story of your life.
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them. How precious are your thoughts towards me God” (Psalm 139:16).
- Comfort them. Hold each other tight. You need each other during this time but it is important that the mother is comforting the child rather than the child comforting their mom. Even though you will find comfort in your child, they are not emotionally able to comfort you in the way that you will need comfort.
- Provide the security of consistency. Keep the day-to-day schedule as normal as possible, although life will be far from normal. Do your best to give your child some type of routine even if it includes one thing they know will happen every day.
- Allow them to enjoy the beauty of childhood innocence. Children want and need to be children. When God allows suffering at an early age, we must trust in His character when we do not understand His ways. It is okay, and normal, for children to laugh and play in the midst of pain. This does not mean that they do not grieve the loss. They will in time. Children grow into grief. Let them be where they are and do not try to hurry the process.
- Enlist others to help you carry the load. Not only have you lost a pair of hands with the loss of your husband, but also another heart for your child. God will use others as a vessel for His fathering. When you notice that He is bringing someone into the life of your child, be intentional about asking them to join you in mentoring and guiding your child.
- Have daily conversations, drawing out emotions by asking questions. What made you happy? What made you sad? What made you mad today? This is a simple way to open the door for heartfelt discussions.
- Be there – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You may feel that you do not have much to give while processing your own grief but do not discount the impact of the presence of mom. Your child needs you more now than ever before. It will be messy, but it is important that you keep showing up.
- Trust God with them. Look to the Lord to heal you and lead them to do the same. Trials strengthen our faith or show us our need for faith. Walking your children through this dark season is a great opportunity to model for them how to walk by faith.
- Understand that grief grows. Your grief might decrease as your child grows into theirs. Grief is not linear. A baby, toddler, kid, and even a teenager may be limited in their ability to grieve initially. Dormant grief can be uncovered as they experience significant milestones. As their life unfolds without a dad, so will the grief.
- Create a safe place for them to grieve. In the early days, I believed that the mom should be the safest place and the one who empathizes with them and gives them hope. As grief matures, include a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor in their inner circle who will help them work through their loss, as well.
- Protect them from damaging details. If suicide, betrayal, murder, or some other tragedy is a part of the story, form a narrative that is true, satisfies their curiosity, and yet does not add weight to the suitcase of their hearts. Some details should wait until they are ready if ever, to process the added grief.
- Pray. God hears your cry. Ask others to join you in specific prayer for your children. 31 Days of Prayer for the Fatherless is a wonderful way to start!
- Look to God as their Father. The best promise for women and children who have been left alone is Psalm 68:5, “A Father to the fatherless, a Defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
As time goes on, carried grief will change to shared grief. Many moms will see this shift in the high school years when teens start to wake up to parts of the story, they were not able to process as young kids. At this time, you will allow them to carry some parts of this grief and share the grief over the absence of an earthly dad together. If their dad passed away when they were kids, prayerfully by this time you have modeled surrender and trust in God all along the way.
The story that’s been given to your family comes with a choice. Suffering and loss can become a crutch you and your family lean on as victims for life or it can be the chisel that shapes you into the person God wants you to be. Even with the great loss of an earthly dad, may your child find the great gain of God as Father.