Grieving and continuing to be a mother is one of the hardest things I have ever had to walk through. There have been quite a few things I have learned about parenting while grieving that have helped me through this walk.
For most of it, it has been trial and error and finding what brings me the most comfort and peace.
8 Things I Have Learned About Parenting While Grieving
Your child(ren) need something for themselves
Despite the pain let your child discover themselves in their own grief
I had signed my daughter Elowyn up for preschool while I was still pregnant with Rainey, but after she died I wasn’t sure if I was still going to send her. The thought of Elowyn being away from me and out of my sight for even a moment was a lot to process.
I wanted so badly just to sit and hold her all day. But she is four and of course, she still loves her mommy but she does not want to be squished by me all day and she is also grieving.
I need to let her do what she needs to do in her grief. Letting her go be her own little person in a very safe place is the best thing I could have done for her.
Children process a lot through play and my daughter has been processing the loss of her baby sister by playing mommy and sibling games with her new friends at school.
The best part is that there is no teasing when she tells her friends that her sister is in Heaven. They are all still so innocent and precious that they just know that what she is saying is the absolute truth.
I’ve realized that there are small stepping stones in grief. Some feel like hurdles and some steps are easier but allowing myself the emotional space to only do things when I am ready is what I need.
My husband impulsively bought us ski passes this season. We discussed it last year but I was heavily pregnant and actually forgot about the conversation until my husband reminded me of it.
Both my husband and I skied when we were young but not as adults and we had never taken Elowyn.
I grumbled and was nervous to start. I’m not great about doing new things, it makes me anxious and plus grief was a tough combination to overcome.
Grieving in a safe place generally always feels safer. This simple addition to our winter routine has been so good for us.
It helps us build memories that Rainey wasn’t a part of and not in a negative way but means that every day we go to the mountain, we are not remembering a memory of her with us. We are able to form new memories as a family of four with her in Heaven.
It also has helped to build confidence in myself, that I can still exist in the “real world” with “real people” and often meet and interact with people that will never know that I have a baby that died, this in a way is a huge relief. I’m not surrounded with sad eyes staring at me feeling bad for me.
Find where you see your baby in the new things
We see her as it gently sprinkles on us or the beautiful sunrise shooting through the clouds lighting up the snowy lake. The snow-dusted treetops and the silence that comes with snowfall. How peaceful and beautiful it all is.
Those are the moments we see our daughter.
Meanwhile, Elowyn is a little daredevil so skiing surprisingly has been her jam and she is absolutely wonderful at it, a true natural. It’s so fun to watch her feel so proud of herself at the end of a long ski day.
These are the things that fill my broken mommy heart. Watching my girls do things that they love and are good at. Rainey rising with the sun and reminding me that I am a good mommy and Ellie growing into a strong self-assured little girl every day.
You are the most important person every day- put yourself first or the grief will eat you alive
If you are not YOU, you cannot be there for your family. This is a sentiment that is preached constantly almost nauseatingly to mothers but it is so easily overlooked because we have so much to do every day and we love our family so damn much.
It is so easy to martyr ourselves- the reality is that we ARE BUSY, and we forget about ourselves.
I learned WHY I cannot lose myself to my children because of my grief.
It will literally eat me alive, and it often tries. This is so apparent when I am alone. When my husband is out of town on a work trip and my daughter is having a sleepover with her grandparents.
You will find me in a puddle of tears screaming out for my baby because I have let myself rush and be everything for my husband and daughters. The stillness and silence allow the pain to resurface. I swallow my tears when I am doing things for them.
This does not mean that I am actively suppressing my grief daily but sometimes I do not give it my undivided attention and it quickly snowballs.
Bringing daily attention to my grief
Attention to my grief and healing looks like waking up and journaling or doing a bible study instead of scrolling social media. Sitting in silence for ten minutes, asking only of myself to keep my eyes closed and let all the thoughts run through my head.
Stepping out into the single-digit temperatures with my dog while he goes potty to give me a rush and wake me up as I breathe in the cool air watching the sunrise, thanking the Lord for another day with my family and holding my baby girl through the night.
It allows me to process the nightmare I might have had and let the tears fall as I remind myself that it is the trauma, it is painful but it is necessary. Feel it all.
Give yourself a clean clear space to grieve and visit your child
Where I see her everyday
There are many wonderful things that I have done for myself during the early grief days, but this was one of my favorites. I built a shelf for Rainey.
On the shelf sits her pure heart urn, along with very thoughtful gifts from friends and family and above it, all hangs the sunrise taken by a very dear friend on the day of Raieny’s birth before she even knew that she died. That photo means so much.
So much more than words can express. I imagine she captured my angel on her way to Heaven.
Create a calm space
Once her shelf was complete I moved on to decluttering her room. I had quickly shoved her bassinet and blankets and all the things that were set up in my room for her after her death- rightfully so; but when I wanted to go into her room and sit in the rocker staring at her empty crib or hold her footprints and run my finger through her little fingerprints I would become overwhelmed by the mess and leave. I couldn’t find the calm I needed.
I created a small but doable plan. I quickly pulled the mess out of the room and organized what was left and made space in the closet to scoot away things that didn’t need to be out in her room. I was able to layout all her special things out all in view and now I can sit in her room and visit with her.
Elowyn can also go in and play with her sister. She loves to play with Rainey’s lovie, then lovingly places it back in the crib for her sister. This is something I thought I did for myself but I realize I also did for Elowyn and sometimes I will catch my husband peeking his head in to look at it.
We all have our own way of mourning Rainey and spending time with her.
Be Honest With Yourself and Others
Sometimes it is hard to show up every day and I have realized that there are no expectations. I do not have to pretend in front of my family, I just need to be there and be honest.
My daughter doesn’t care if I am crying or smiling, She is just so happy I am here. I am showing her the vast range of human emotions and letting her know that it is ok to not be happy all of the time, that it is not realistic and is harmful to our mental health.
I am showing her how to cope with the pain and to openly grieve a devastating event and how to keep her sister alive in our words and that she will forever be part of our lives no matter what.
Breanna Naccarato is an entrepreneur, a mother of two, and owner of Loved Momma Fitness. Sadly in the spring of 2021, she lost her second daughter at birth and has since transitioned her business from working directly with pregnant and postpartum mothers into bringing more awareness to stillbirth and sharing her knowledge of pelvic floor health and exercise through different outlets. She loves the outdoors and camping with her family in their Adventure Van. Sharing her adventures, joys, and pain with others in hopes to also allow them to find their voice and the words to boldly share their own lives is something that she is very passionate about.