When a spouse or partner dies, the surviving parent is trying to navigate his or her own grief, while at the same time raise children and teens who are also grieving. Research has consistently shown that the better a surviving parent or caregiver is able to cope with the death, the better the child or teen will cope as well. The Children’s Room is dedicated to supporting parents/caregivers by providing an opportunity for them to acquire the parenting tools they need to help the children or teens grieve and so that all can better integrate the death into their lives over time.
One of the ways this is done is through Parenting While Grieving: Supporting Children After the Death of a Parent. This eight-week series began in 2012 and has quickly developed into one of our core programs. Now offered twice a year in the fall and spring, the series is designed to help provide both education and support for parents or caregivers when a child’s parent has died. It is designed for parents and caregivers who want to better understand the impact of grief on their child or teen, and provides insight and practical strategies for handling the unique and difficult parenting challenges that inevitably arise as a child or teen grieves a parent who has died. During the series, parents and caregivers are able to learn essential parenting skills such as listening, setting limits, and communication. They are also able to hone these skills at home and share feedback at the next group.
Being the parent or caregiver for a grieving child or teen who has had a parent die can feel challenging, like entering new territory for the whole family.
“I really didn’t want to come most weeks but always felt better when I left, and had more confidence on how to handle things.”
The Parenting While Grieving Series is not a therapy group or a support group. It is, however, both supportive and therapeutic. It is an educational and interactive with an opportunity to share every week and exchange strategies and ideas. Some of the participants are grieving the death of a husband, wife, or partner; some are divorced or separated from the person who died. Some are grandparents, aunts, uncles, or guardians. They are all raising children who are grieving the death of a parent.
“The group changed so much for me. It gave me skills to help parent my grieving children, while caring for myself. It gave me a safe and supportive space to share my ‘widow’ moments. I was able to laugh, cry, and be surrounded by people who completely understood the depth of my sadness. I was able to talk openly and honestly about how overwhelmed I was about being a single parent.”
Participants have opportunities to share personal reflections every week, and the real-life scenarios the group presents are used to problem-solve and role-play solutions together. In this way, the parent or caregiver will feel more comfortable using these strategies and skills at home, in moments when they are most needed. The group learns about child and adolescent grief as well as age-appropriate language and strategies for helping children grieve through this developmental lens.
“I liked people sharing their challenges and solutions. I also liked the structure of a planned agenda and the flexibility to spend more time on our concerns when they came up.”
Although different themes such as developmental understanding of grief and effective parental communication are explored each week, the themes are meant to build upon one another, providing a comprehensive, holistic approach to helping the participants best support themselves and their child(ren) or teen.