Our Kids Need Us To Validate Their Grief Over Even The Little Things Right Now

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It is nearing one year of pandemic parenting and I would be lying if I said I thought I would still be doing this a year later

Not to mention 2021 seems hellbent on outshining 2020.

I have found myself overly exhausted from still working overtime to shelter my children from the constant state of uncertainty that has become our reality. 

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All the while trying to simultaneously provide them with some sense of stability in a still unstable world.

Can I just say: it is beginning to feel like an impossible task.

My children are experiencing a palpable level of fear, frustration, and grief despite my best efforts to shield them from the precariousness that is now our baseline.

“Do we have school today?”

That’s the question.

Every morning my kids double check that the plans that were in place yesterday are still true today.

The answer on this particular day to this particular query thanks to the snow-pacalypse many of us are trying to recuperate from led me to answer with a gentle,

 “No.”

“WHAT????  WE DON’T HAVE SCHOOL????  BUT IT’S MY VALENTINE PARTY!!!” 

Cue the tears falling down my child’s cherub cheeks. 

The severity of the reaction did not match the state of affairs which led me to the heartbreaking realization: this was the breaking point.

All of the disappointment and uncertainty from the last year culminated into this moment.  

Where the lack of security and disappointment from constant unpredictability became evident. 

No, it wasn’t a pandemic related cancellation although that did not matter. It was another example of plans being unreliable; where my kids could not count on…well anything.  

At that moment I was so tempted to say faux comforting statements like “it’ll be ok” and “In fifteen years you won’t even remember your Valentine’s parties.”

But, I stopped myself. 

Because you know what? It does suck and the tears are valid. 

It sucks that a moment that they had looked forward to for many weeks was cancelled unexpectedly.

Like so many other moments in the last year.

It sucks that every time they ask, 

“Can we do something” 

the answer has been: “When corona is over.” 

And their follow up question, “When will corona be over?” has been followed by  “I’m not sure babes.” 

It sucks because I cannot honestly tell them in good faith that they will not remember an elementary Valentine’s Day party or lack of it. 

They might. 

Because it came in the year of COVID and I can only imagine that every grain of disappointment and every cancelled event has contributed to their fear and lack of stability and as such will be ingrained into their brains for many, many years to come. 

It sucks because there is nothing I can do to ease their disappointment or lift the sadness from their hearts for them.  

Even though I would rather it not be a part of their story, it is.

So on this particular day, over this particular situation, I let them grieve. 

I snuggled them. 

And I told them,

 “I’m sorry this does suck.”

I have spent a year trying so hard to keep my kids from thinking or realizing they have been missing something. I have found myself repeatedly saying that there will always be another birthday party or school dance or family vacation.

We have spent nearly a year looking for silver linings to the chaos.

But in the process I am afraid I have unintentionally masked their pain.

And the thing about unexpressed pain is that it will always find a way to express itself when we least expect it.

Like when a Valentine’s Day party is cancelled.

I have to be okay with my children feeling disappointment. I cannot eliminate any and all heartbreak from their lives. 

I am realizing that it would be a disservice to them if I did.

We are often asked to get over our grief. 

To move on from trauma. To not let it affect us. 

However, the only way we can truly ever move on from anguish is to first fully feel it. 

To acknowledge its presence, the effect it is having on us, and allow ourselves the time to process it. 

So, I will let them grieve. 

They deserve that grace as do all of our kids. 

They have lost so much in the last year. Not just experiences but notions of safety, security, and stability. 

I know we have all done our best to protect them from those feelings.  

To provide steadfastness where we could. 

To shower them with love and protection.  

But there are some things we can’t erase.

Like them realizing that something about this is different, unnatural even, and that uncertainty is unsettling. I can’t help but believe that the only way they will ever truly heal is if we hold them through their grief and let them really feel.

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