how to deal with grief when you have kids, griefGrief by Danielle Christopher

The tears race down my cheeks uncensored. The shock allows the floodgates to open before I realize my four-year-old is watching me.

I warble out to my husband who is steps away, “He died.” I feel paralyzed in the living room chair.

My husband comes over to me. I am staring at my iPad going through Facebook where the announcement that our friend’s 13-day-old newborn had passed the night before. Baby was waiting for a new heart which never came. Being under constant hospital supervision since birth, he never got to go home to where his older siblings were waiting.

My husband holds my hand as we explain to our older daughter why I am sad. Her friend’s youngest brother passed away. I tell her that it is not fair.

“Oh, he went to heaven to see Harley?” she asks. Harley is our cat who passed away when she was fifteen months old. I wrote two books about him. The last one was about how he was sick, went to the hospital and passed away. Harley became an angel where he felt better and still watched over us. The books are read frequently in our home.

She looked at his picture on the screen. Never have met, she nods and says okay.  I watch her go back to playing her dolls. I try to shelter some feelings from my kids.

After dealing with my mom’s illness and subsequent passing, I never had a true childhood. That motivates me to allow them to be innocent and enjoy their rightful time in their young lives. I do believe in being honest with them.

Having my eldest girl appreciate and understand my sadness because of the Harley story validated that I am doing something right as a mom. As my two and four year old grow up and have their tween dramas, I hope that by allowing myself to show emotion they will be open and free with themselves. Also, to know that I am here for them any time as my mom would have for me  had she lived.

I wipe my tears and close the iPad feeling a little less sad by letting myself be open in my feelings. Holding it in does not help. Despite my overwhelming need to go back to bed and stay there all day, I have to take care of my kids.

One step and one day at a time is a good place to start.

Danielle Christopher is a stay-at-home mom of two daughters, ages one and three.  She blogs for The Momoir Project and writes book reviews for Women’s Post.  Her teen story is in the collection “Parent/Teen Stories: Without Judgement”.  She lives with her husband of seventeen years and her girls in Langley, B.C..   Follow her on Twitter.


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. First of all, big hugs. I didn’t know that precious babe had died. 🙁

    It is a very hard thing to balance. Teaching and modeling feelings for our kids, as well as sheltering them a bit from the cruel, harsh realities of life. I don’t know what the balance is exactly. I just try to do my best and take life day by day.


  2. I failed this part of it….but I honestly did the best I could. think that phrase is overused a lot of the time. But this time, it was my 11 year old daughter who died after me being her cheerleader, nurse, advocate, mom, best friend, clinical manager, therapist, etc….after an 8 year fight with brain cancer.

    I’d lost my daughter. I’d lost how I identified myself. I’d lost the job I’d done the longest…and I could not get it back.

    I lost half my heart that day in our bedroom when she took her (Freudian slip – I wrote “our”) last breath.

    And I remained a single mom to one 7 year old son who was thrown into the depths of PTSD and complicated grief and damn….I didn’t beat him. I didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol. But I didn’t light up anymore. There was no joy in our home anymore. I punched out of being his mother for a year and he has never gotten past that. I think he hates me still.

    He not only lost his sister…he lost his mother that day too. And for that—-I am still paying the price. And yet I did the best I could.

  3. Danielle Christopher Reply

    Ladies, you both said it right. We do our best. We do what we know. I fear that my friend will forget her older two kids. My own young kids have lost 8 loved ones in their short lives due to cancer, heart disease and car accidents. A parent should never lose a child period.
    Won- I hope by you speaking and writing about your pain will bring you back to your child that is still here. No one can know what you are really going through other than other parents who have lost their children. I only can offer my heartfelt condolences.

    By talking about it is a great place to keep the conversation going.

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