by Chaplain Julia Rajtar, MAPS, BCC
Imagine, in your family of 4, going from two caregivers to one, becoming fully responsible for everything, having your life shattered, and your child’s life smashed, as one of their parent’s has died. The death of a parent, especially when younger children are involved, can leave the existing parent disoriented and devastated.
Recently, Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services offered an event called, “Double Whammy – Coping with the Death of a Spouse while Parenting a Grieving Child.” This webinar, for widowed parents, was intended to address how to cope with your own grief while helping your children deal with the death. Widowed mothers and fathers face unique grieving and parenting challenges. This event offered guidance for coping, healing and reimagining life for themselves and for their children. Watch for the Bakken-Young 2020 Grief Support calendar for next year’s date.
About Widowed Parenting Webinar
The webinar leader, Justin Yopp, PhD, Clinical Psychologist/Associate Professor and Co-Leader, Widowed Parent Program at University of North Carolina of Chapel Hill, provided research and resources to help parents cope. This program was developed because he, along with a colleague, recognized that there were few resources for widowed parents. The UNC research study was based on widowed fathers, with children at home, and death was due to cancer. Initial findings of the study (Park et al 2015, Yopp et al 2015) indicated elevated depression, elevated grief, high parenting-related stress, yet most of the father’s felt they were parenting as well as a single parent. The research indicated that the “dads put the needs of the children over their own needs, not giving attention to their own emotional needs.” Yopp says this is understandable yet comes at a cost.
Using the wisdom of the widowed parenting group, one of the key learnings from the group is: “Don’t try to be the other parent.” It’s difficult to be “super mom or super dad.” It’s ok to fail and mess up, which will happen. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and for your children can help you to be a “good enough” parent.
Join Us Next Year
If you have become a widowed parent, please consider joining us for this event next year. The learning from the research and the discussion after the webinar, can offer support to widowed parents, even if you are doing a “good enough” job. Simply being with and talking with others who walk in similar shoes, can ease the burden that you now carry alone.
To find this and other helpful resources go to the Grief Resources page on our web site Bakken-Young Grief Resources or go directly to www.widowedparent.org. This web site includes resources for parents, information on children’s grief, a survey for widowed parents so that they can learn to better serve families. Additionally, you can read about the group from the recently published book The Group: Seven widowed Fathers Reimagine Life.