Phyllis R. Silverman Ph.D.

Raising Grieving Children

New Normal

Learning new ways to live as a single parent.

Posted Jul 08, 2010

The title of our book A Parent's Guide to Raising Grieving Children: Rebuilding Your Family After the Death of a Loved one, has two parts to it. The second part is quite clear in what it says about what is required of a grieving parent. It is not possible to turn back to what was before the death. I have said this many times in this blog. One of the biggest challenges facing a grieving parent is dealing with the changes in their daily life as a result of the death of their spouse. The biggest challenge comes with the recognition that you are now a single parent. This can involve finding new ways of involving your children in household routines, in keeping the family together, in balancing the budget, in finding time to shop, and to cook and to get the children to school and to recognize the empty space in your lives that the deceased left. It means fitting work into the schedule; to keep going when all you want to do is retreat and perhaps sleep with the hope that when you wake up this will all be a bad dream. As things sort themselves out there may be lots of confusion, that accompanies the sense of what is lost, and cannot be regained. You are indeed rebuilding your family, as you face this new reality every day.

I found an article in the Boston Globe of July 5 describing a study that involved families served by the Dana Farber Cancer Institute here in Boston. The participants in the study were families with children where a member survived cancer. As the family member recovers they try to return to life as before but they often find this is impossible. They now face what can be called a "New Normal". I like that way of putting what is happening in these families. I don't think this term was invented by the Dana Farber staff. I have heard it used before. It is what grieving families where there illness led to death are facing. This is true regardless of the cause of the death. The title of our book then reflects the several parts of what grieving families face.

In using the word grief we are referring to the sadness, the emptiness that comes with the loss. When we talk about raising grieving children the parent is in the role of caregiver, guide, comforter that enable children to deal with the loss and to continue growing and maturing. And we are talking about mobilizing resources to deal with change that accompanies all of this. There is so much to do. Parents need to go slow, take one step at a time. They may need teachers, to provide them with support, perspective, and tricks of the trade . One way of learning is to read a book like ours. Your local library can help. Another way is finding a Center where you can meet other parents with whom you can learn, and together you can learn how you can make this a much easier process to grab hold of. The new reality or new normal doesn't happen overnight. It happens gradually one step at a time.

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