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Grieving vs. Parenting
Parenting Parenting
Grieving vs. Parenting
August 31, 2017
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Parenting Parenting
Grieving vs. Parenting
August 31, 2017
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In January I lost my dad to cancer, and with my son, Bertie approaching the ‘terrible twos’, I felt completely overwhelmed. As if being a mother isn’t emotional enough, the extra baggage that comes with the grieving package seems impossible to juggle, especially when combined with an oblivious toddler and days when you just want to hide under the duvet. Dad’s diagnosis in November was as sudden as the prognosis was short and I had to come up with a coping strategy, fast. There was no time for wallowing or for self-pity – Bertie’s routine needed to stay consistent. So despite being catapulted into every daughter’s worst nightmare, I had to carry on and snap up any lesson thrown at me along the way. The dust has far from settled (will it ever?) but here’s what I’ve clutched onto so far.

Maintain a balance.
Surround yourself with friends and playdates but not so many that you feel too busy. Doing too much is a meltdown waiting to happen and I’ve discovered that quality time alone with Bertie has proved to be just as therapeutic.

Eat properly.
It’s tricky to find time to eat at the best of times when you’re a parent but when the going gets tough, it’s the last thing you feel like doing. In the early days I’d feel exhausted, only to realise the most I’d eaten all day was a Mars Bar just to keep me going. So now, instead of serving Bertie his lunch first and waiting until after he’s gone for his nap to feed myself next to nothing, I deliberately eat lunch with him. Avoiding food is harder when you’re being watched by a fussy toddler…

Dance.
Because, believe it or not, you’re not always crying. I was told it would take months to be able to listen to music again but two weeks after losing dad, Bertie gestured excitedly to the iPod and I had no choice but to dance wildly around the kitchen with him to his favourite song. It might seem disloyal to have done that so soon but do you know what? We had fun. And I know dad was smiling with us.

Accept help.
There will be times when you feel you can’t cope. A month in, it all got too much – I’d heard one tantrum too many and I screamed at Bertie on the street through tears of desperation.

“Just because you have a young child, doesn’t mean you’re not owed time to heal too”.
Of course, I felt instantly terrible but when you’re ­that brain-swamped, occasionally losing your cool is inevitable. If you simply can’t stop crying one day, don’t feel guilty about calling on a loved one to give you a break. Time to myself – an hour here, an afternoon there – has been vital, just to reflect on what’s happened and to remember the good times as well. Just because you have a young child, doesn’t mean you’re not owed time to heal too.

To me, grief feels like a series of tidal waves that hit you with sadness again and again. Once you’ve recovered from one, another follows. But even though there is no resolution, I still find the strength to pull myself up, take a deep breath and carry on, and I know this drive comes from Bertie. He brings me the happy times and unknowingly guides me through the worst times. So, when the next wave hits you, remember that even though being a parent feels like the toughest job in the world, it is also what’s keeping you going.

Philippa Pearne
@philippapearne
Former Beauty Editor @ Glamour UK. Freelance beauty, lifestyle and parenting journalist.
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