How do you raise a child after they have experienced loss?
I remember it like it was yesterday, that moment is so vivid. After I’d witnessed the tragic murder of my mama, my granny and the rest of my family wanted to make life and things as normal as possible. But that “normal” would never be again, ever. At the age of nine, I had to adjust to a new normal. My granny did the best that she could with me and my brother. We had a few counseling sessions. I would sit across from the therapist on my granny’s navy blue sectional in the family room swinging my legs in anxiousness, my hands buried underneath my legs. It was hard to process or truly understand the reason for having to sit down and talk to this stranger about my feelings. My mama was no longer with me… that’s all I could think about and feel. Therapy didn’t last too long after my mama’s transition. My granny couldn’t afford it after my mama’s social security benefits were no longer available to cover the cost.
My granny was willing to sacrifice, work an extra job in order to continue paying for sessions but I overheard my uncle telling her, “they will be fine, life has to go on.”
And now 29 years later, I find myself standing in the same shoes as my granny. Three years ago, on 11/8/2019, my son’s father was murdered in his own home. Being the bearer of that news to my son, who was 12 years old at the time, was one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do in my life. As a mother, there is an innate energy to protect your offspring from pain, suffering and grief. All that a mother wants for her child/children, is for them to feel protected and loved. This traumatic experience has softened me as a mother, in some ways that I don’t particularly like and I am currently processing this. I’ve always been the mother that was firm about my children maintaining their responsibilities (school and home), being accountable and having respect. The requirements that I set for my children are the same ones that I display and practice within myself. But what I have observed about myself and my parenting over the past 3 years with my son is that I have become lenient in what I require and have always expected of him. Not wanting to be too hard on him or push him over the edge… I mean, after all, he has experienced a loss so deep and he is still processing this… is what I tell myself to try and justify the change in my parenting behaviors.
Growing up my granny loved and comforted us the best way that she knew how BUT she was also tough as nails in her own way. She was stern about us going to school, completing our studies, making the best grades as well as maintaining our responsibilities and chores at home. I can see her more clearly now through me. Especially the times when she would give us the things we wanted although we didn’t deserve them. I often pondered if that was her way of dealing with the pain she felt for us and our loss as well as her own pain, grief and resentment from losing her only daughter. Nevertheless, whatever my granny required of me she stood firmly on that. There were consequences for not doing what was expected of me or when I did the unexpected. “I know your mother is not here…”, is how she would often start her lecture to lessen the pain of the punishment that she was about to hand out following up with “but that does not excuse your behavior.”
Reflecting on those very words has helped me to realize that the discipline measures I extend to my son will help him not just for the now but life in general. The echo of my granny’s words comfort and bring me such ease even when I don’t want to punish him due to my own emotional, mental wars within myself. I’m 38 years old and I have literally seen what “spare the rod, spoil the child” can do to a child who has become an adult. These adults that I speak of, have come from two parent homes or a wealthy mother, etc. They have no idea of what responsibility is, lack values and morals, hold no accountability for themselves or their actions. Most of all, they are lost in who they truly are, and I don’t want that for any of my children. Looking at myself, seeing how far I have come as a being shows me the resilience that I embody; And being that my son came from me, I know that my son has that same resilient spirit. Life doesn’t give you a break or take it easy on you just because you have endured traumatic pain and suffering. But yet, it instills a wisdom within you that you can’t acquire from none other than that experience itself. Moving through the pain and trauma ain’t easy. But if every person affected does his/her part, it gives each person a different and more positive outlook, which assists us in being able to handle life in a much more healthier, lighter way.
So, how will I raise my child since he has experienced this loss?
Figuratively, I’d have to say by not sparing the rod. I will continue to be an ear for him to express himself, if he so chooses. I will continue to increase him by speaking life into him. I will hold him accountable for his actions/behaviors. I will reward him for doing the right thing. I will correct him when he is wrong and commend him when he is right. Most of all, I will continue to cover him in unconditional love, support and protection. Because as my uncle said, “He will be fine, life has to go on”, and I, his mother, will be right there with him every step of the way.
If you or anyone you know has experienced trauma in any form, I encourage you to get them the help they need. Whether that is therapy, counseling, support groups or family support.
Be a light in someone’s dark place…
Let go, let flow.