Let Them Live Their One Best Life

As of late, I have been reminded of how fragile life is but also how resilient. You see, in the last 7 months my circle has lost 9 people. Some of them, were lucky enough to have had a long life and left surrounded by love. Others left too soon.

Watching people around me, I see the sadness, I see the sparkle of life left in them despite the loss and I see the resiliency.

Since I work with preteens in my other life, I try to figure out how to speak to them on such subjects. This year, I was frank with them when an aunt passed away and then, 21 days later, when my mom died. I talked about how lucky I was to have had them as long as I did even if I sometimes felt sad and my eyes might leak.

Since then, I have been in both direct and indirect contact with children who have lost a parent. Actually we have been privy to three young families dealing with that loss in the last two months, two of them in the last few weeks.

One young one, whom I have seen regularly, has faced the loss of her mother. It is the kind of loss she might only realise how deeply important it is, down the line. I have a deep sense that my young one will be okay. Her life adjusted this year. I have been watching her since she got back. Her circumstances definitely do not define her. She is simply herself.

A few years ago, I had another young one lose his mom tragically. She was his only parent. Concerned, I kept an eye on him as well. His living arrangements were strained to say the least. Despite that, like this year’s young one, he was simply himself in school. He did his job as a student, even if sometimes it was difficult for him to concentrate.

For both of these young people, their tragedies do not seem to define them. It does not make them impervious to their situations. Their tragedy simply isn’t who they are but a terribly sad thing that happened to them.

I am reminded how the reaction of “my kids” is not the only reaction children have in difficult situations. In some cases, the parent left over drop expectations and make excuses for their child’s bad behaviors. Children are smart. If it was in their natural temperament to do everything to get their own way, imagine what the parent will accept when guilt is thrown in that the other parent isn’t there anymore or if the other parent isn’t present because of illness or other important circumstances.

As a teacher, I have seen the good and the bad of what parents accept or expect from the children over these last three plus decades. My first clear lesson of parental superpower came from a mom during a parent-teacher-student interview many years ago. In front of me, Mom said to her daughter: “ I know Dad is dying, but you have a life and you must live your best one. So, what are you going to do about school?”

The strength she had for her daughter and her wish for her daughter’s future was eye-opening. She was not letting her husband’s cancer define her daughter. When he passed at the end of the school year, she did give her daughter time to mourn and also an opportunity to come say goodbye to her classmates before we all left for summer vacation.

How can we support our young people in these times of grief or worry while keeping the main focus on their right to their own life? How can we help define them by who they are and not let sometimes horrific circumstances define them?

I deeply believe we must not expect less of the children in these difficult times. Keep them on your radar, give them a place and time to grieve or worry as they reintegrate their daily life. Support them with outside help if they are having a particularly difficult time.

Let them be themselves. Don’t guide their grief. Let them be your guide and be ready to catch them if they fall.

I often worry for the children. Next time I will broach the subject of being a parent when times are difficult.

You are welcomed to come back to have a look and share if you think it might help someone.