Grief Journey: Embracing Your Child’s Individuality

As a mama of three girls ages 7, 10 and 12, there’s a lot I’m still learning. In fact, every day is a wild journey of discovery about my girls and myself. One thing I do know for sure: we are all different.

That may sound obvious but it’s a big deal. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself as I navigate the waters of parenting. Each one of my girls is a masterpiece – uniquely wired and created by God.

It’s tempting to get caught up into what other people think about our kids – how they should look or behave or think or act. I have been that mom. It’s been a journey for me to learn how to celebrate each one of my girls and embrace their individuality.

I know that my oldest, Meilani, feels wholly alive when she has a book in hand. She loves all things related to the ocean. She’s also a planner. She loves to know what’s on the agenda for the week. She loves to set up her room for friends to come over and have every stuffed animal, every Lego creation in its place. I also know that my sweet girl sucks her bottom lip when she’s nervous or thinking hard.

My middle daughter, Giada, is a snuggler. She thrives on hugs and cuzzling before bed. She’s a whiz at math and loves to be active. She loves gymnastics and running. She is adept at making new friends and a leader among her peers. She’s the girl you want with you on a long trip to a new place because she can win over any stranger.

My youngest, Zayla, oozes joy and passion. She spends more time standing on her head than she does sitting right side up. She is talented singer and loves to freestyle songs and dances. She scrunches up her nose when she smiles and erupts with contagious giggles. She is independent and strong.

My girls are full of joy, but they have also tasted deep pain. They watched their daddy as he was diagnosed with cancer. They stood by his bedside when his body was failing. They were with me at the grave when we celebrated his life. We anticipate seeing Daddy again in heaven one day and gaining a greater understanding for the heartache we endure.

As a family, we are learning how to grieve both individually and collectively. Recognizing that each of my daughters is unique proves important now more than ever.

My oldest doesn’t like to cry in front of people while my middle little needs someone to hold her close when those tears come. When my 6-year-old misses her daddy, she sings. They are all comforted by pictures on my phone and videos with his voice.

They each have their own unique grief journey. It’s different from mine and other kids who have experienced something similar. These are all things I’m learning.

According to the book Resilient Grieving by Dr. Lucy Hone, “the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship” has the power to help a child do well in the face of adversity. She goes on to say that “very few individuals who have managed to demonstrate resilience in the face of trauma have done so alone.”

I believe our job as mamas is to lean in close, to listen to what our kids are telling us with words and body language, to get to know what pushes their buttons, and what makes their hearts beat.

A large part of our job is also to embrace their individuality and teach them to be themselves, bravely, in light of that.

My goal is to create a safe space for my children to grieve and celebrate life in their own ways. And we as mamas need to cover ourselves in grace in the process.

 

**I’ve developed a FREE resource with “Tips for Navigating Grief with Kids.” I’m passionate about sharing my personal experiences and walking alongside readers on their grief journeys. Opt in here, and I’ll deliver it straight to your inbox!

About Dorina Gilmore

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and then was transplanted to Central California after college. I'm officially a California girl now. My husband died of melanoma cancer in 2014, but in God's wild grace He brought my new husband Shawn to redeem our family. I have three daughters. When I'm not writing or speaking, I'm trail running, knitting or chasing sunsets at the ocean. My passion is helping people navigate grief and discover God's glory in the process.

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