The death or serious illness of a loved one can affect all members of a family. Often, a parent may think first of a child’s need for grief counseling. However, we know that children are more likely to be resilient in the face of loss when their caregiver is being supported as well.
Kids Path counselors often encourage caregivers to “put on your own oxygen mask first.” In other words, a parent who is not exhausted or emotionally depleted will be better able to support their children.
Here are some tips for maintaining self-care when your family is coping with loss related to death or illness.
Take care of your body’s basic needs.
Just as you would focus on basic physical needs if you were recovering from the flu, it’s important to acknowledge the impact of grief on your physical functioning. Try to ensure that you are getting enough sleep, eating regularly, and staying hydrated. You don’t have to be perfect at it, but caring for yourself physically is just as important as caring for yourself psychologically at this time.
Incorporate sensory soothing.
Consider how you can bring small sensory comforts into your day, such as using a lotion with a relaxing scent or listening to music that is soothing for you. You may find that you want additional comforts to help you sleep at night, such as white noise from a fan or a heavy blanket on your bed. This can even be a game you share with children in the family, where each person tries to name two comforting things for each of the five senses: touch, sight, smell, taste and sound.
You are most likely feeling many emotions related to your loss, including sadness or anger. It’s important to find healthy ways to express these feelings, such as talking with a trusted friend. You could also try journaling about your feelings, hitting the couch or bed with a pool noodle or using movement (playing basketball, running or just dancing to the radio). Crying is also an excellent way to release strong emotions. If you prefer privacy, some people recommend crying in the shower!
Seek grief counseling and support groups.
If a significant loss is making it difficult to function in your everyday responsibilities, you don’t have to go it alone. Kids Path works closely with the Counseling and Education Center, a bereavement program for adults that is also part of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. A trained bereavement counselor can meet with you individually to provide coping tools and insight about the grief process. There are also support groups focusing on specific types of losses that present special challenges, such as overdose or suicide.
How Kids Path Can Help: The licensed counselors at Kids Path offer free phone consultations to assist you in finding an appropriate community resource for your family’s support needs. Simply call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.